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Colonoscopy Patient Education

What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). Your doctor will examine your large intestine (colon) with a flexible, lighted tube. The tube will be inserted into your rectum and passed through the large intestine. This test may be done for diagnosis, treatment or follow-up of abnormalities of the colon, such as rectal bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease, abnormal colon X-ray, polyps, colon cancer, change in bowel habits or a family history of colon cancer or disease of the colon.

How do I prepare for the test?

Your doctor’s nurse will explain what preparation your doctor ordered.

  • You need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after your test. There should be no driving the day of your procedure.
  • Your doctor will tell you what dietary restrictions to follow and what cleansing routine to use. In general, the preparation consists of either consuming a large volume of a special cleansing solution or clear liquids and special oral laxatives. The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and complete, so be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Read detailed instructions about preparing for your procedure

What should I expect during the procedure?

  • A nurse will instruct you on breathing exercises to help you during the procedure.
  • We will insert a small needle into a vein so sedation can be given before and during your test as needed.
  • We will monitor your pulse and oxygen level during the procedure by applying a finger probe.
  • You will lie on your left side.
  • Because the colon is a collapsed tube when it is empty, your doctor will put air into the colon so the walls can be seen. You may experience abdominal cramping during this time.
  • Your doctor may choose to take biopsies (small pieces of colon tissue) to send to the laboratory for further study. Taking biopsies will not cause you discomfort.
  • Your doctor will attempt to remove any polyps (small growths on the colon wall) found during the test.
  • This procedure takes approximately 15-30 minutes.

What can I expect after my test?

  • You will be observed for a minimum of 30 minutes with your blood pressure, pulse and respirations checked every 15 minutes.
  • You may feel bloated after the examination because of the air introduced into your colon. Passing the air will help relieve the pressure.
  • A snack and beverage will be offered to you at this time.
  • Your family members or friends may join you in the observation area if you wish.

When will I get my results?

Your doctor will tell you what was found before you are discharged. Results of any tissue removed will be mailed to you in approximately two weeks. Before you leave the Endoscopy unit, the nurse will give you further instructions.

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