Colonoscopy Procedure

The Colon

Your colon is the last part of your digestive and gastrointestinal (GI) tract and is commonly referred to as the large intestine. The colon is comprised of a hollow tube that averages five feet long; the cecum, which connects the large intestine to the small intestine; and the rectum, which stores undigested solid waste, to be released. The colon plays a large role in the digestive process by separating water and minerals from unneeded materials. The water and minerals from digested food are absorbed into the body, and the remainder is filtered into the rectum.

Colorectal Cancer

Unfortunately, the colon is often susceptible to colorectal cancer, which refers to cancer of the colon and/or rectum, and is abbreviated CRC. This type of cancer occurs when a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum becomes malignant, and is the third most common of all the cancers, behind skin and lung cancers. Luckily, colorectal cancer is fairly treatable when detected early, which is one of many reasons that adults fifty and older should receive routine a colonoscopy.


The colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to look inside the colon to detect any irregularities and to assess its overall health. During the procedure, a long, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end (known as a colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum and up through the colon by a gastroenterologist. The colonoscope’s body and camera are very advanced, and the gastroenterologist can turn the instrument in any direction to obtain a full and thorough look at the colon, as the video camera transmits an immediate image onto a TV monitor in the doctor’s office.

Colonoscopy Uses and Importance

Colonoscopies are not just used to detect colorectal cancer; they are also used to detect issues that may lead to cancer, and to screen for other health issues as well. One of the main uses of a colonoscopy is to detect colon polyps (abnormal growths on the inside lining on the intestine). Most are not cancerous, but some can become so, so it is better to detect and analyze polyps as early as possible. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist may also perform a polypectomy, a technique that removes polyps so that they can be analyzed for malignancies. The colonoscope is hollow, so other instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to remove polyps or to take biopsies of tissue.

Colonoscopes can also be used to evaluate rectal bleeding, abdominal or rectal pain, changes in bowel habits, chronic constipation or diarrhea, an inflamed colon, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease, hemorrhoids, or other health issues.

Who Should Get A Colonoscopy

Colonoscopies are significant medical exams because they help to decipher whether a patient has colon cancer or other diseases. But at what point should you get a colonoscopy? Should it be in your list of annual medical exams, or, should you wait until you start seeing symptoms that are a cause for concern. Colonoscopies are recommended once every ten years, after the age of 50. However, if there is a history of rectal cancers in your family, this time span will be decreased by your doctor.

In addition, if you happen to suffer constantly form the following:

  • Rectal Bleeding or pain
  • Bowel Movements
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids

Then your doctor will most likely refer you to a gastroenterologist, who will then perform a colonoscopy.

Preparing for a Colonoscopy

First, make sure your doctor is aware of all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter ones and natural supplements. Make sure the doctor is aware of your full medical histories, including any heart, lung, or kidney problems or allergies. It is especially important to let your doctor know if you are taking any blood thinners.

Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare for your colonoscopy, so make sure to follow them carefully. This usually includes instructions on what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop eating, as well as instructions for cleaning out the colon, which can take time but is crucial to the procedure. There are various ways to do this, and your doctor will usually recommend the one he or she feels will work best for your case. This may include a liquid you are instructed to drink that will stimulate bowel movements, special diets, enemas, or suppositories. Whichever method your doctor suggests, make sure to follow his or her instructions carefully. If there are any instructions you do not understand, contact your doctor and ask for clarification.

During the Colonoscopy

If you receive conscious sedation (sedation and narcotics) you will be half awake and may experience some discomfort during the procedure. The best anesthesia for a colonoscopy is intravenous Diprivan (Propofol) which is administered by an anesthesiologist. The Patient will not feel any discomfort with this type of anesthesia.

The procedure is usually completed in about 30 minutes, though it can vary depending on what is found and if any other procedures need to be performed.

Possible Complications

The colonoscopy is a safe, common procedure, but as with any medical procedure, complications can occur. These complications include perforation or puncture of the colon walls (treated with surgery) and hemorrhage if polyp removal or biopsy is performed (sometimes treated with blood transfusions). Also, colonoscopies are not perfect, and some abnormalities may be missed. Always discuss any concerns you have about the procedure with your doctor.

After the Colonoscopy

You will be kept in a recovery area until the effects of the medications have worn off, and then you will be debriefed on the results of your colonoscopy. You will also be given instructions about how soon you can eat and drink, as well as instructions for resuming normal activity.

You should plan to rest for the remainder of the day, and should not drive, so make sure you have arranged for a family member or friends to drive you home from the procedure. Minor problems may occur, including bloating, gas, or mild cramping, but these should disappear within a day. You may be asked to contact a member of the colonoscopy team for follow-up a few days later as well.

Oak Tree Surgical Center

Our Procedures

Click the images below to learn more about the procedures we provide.

Colonoscopy Endoscopy Consultative Gastroenterology Hepatology