Colonoscopy is a technique for diagnosing and treating suspected illnesses of the colon. It involves an endoscopic procedure using a finger-thick, twistable flexible medical tube with a camera and light at the tip for examination of rectum and large intestine. The optical examination spans a region from anus through the end of small intestine. An anesthetist also attends the procedure for preventing and relieving pain. Colonoscopy is indicated for:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rectal bleeding
- Fecal occult blood
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Removal of intestinal polyps
- Routine intestinal screening of individuals aged 50 years or older
- Further investigation of suspected malignancies found on radiological examination
- Idiopathic abdominal pain and/or excessive weight loss
- Idiopathic anemia and/or iron deficiency anemia
- Follow-up and treatment of colon cancer
- Infectious bowel disease.
A successful colonoscopy procedure requires the bowel to be empty and cleansed. Cleansing the bowels as preparation for colonoscopy may involve using medications or lavage (flushing the colon). Improper cleansing of bowels may cause lesions or polyps to be overlooked, prolong the procedure and require it to be repeated. Solid foods must be withheld for 24 to 48 hours prior to the procedure, and consume only liquid foods. Fresh vegetables and fruits should be consumed. Any medications prescribed by the physician must be used as prescribed. Colonoscopy takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes. After the procedure, the patient is rested for an hour and then discharged. The physician may, if they deem necessary, sample polyps for biopsy. Painful bloating may be experienced 3 to 5 hours after the procedure. Taking a slow walk may help alleviate painful bloating. Demanding, tiring activities should be avoided. Patients are advised to rest 3 to 4 days after the procedure. The residual effects of anesthetics used for colonoscopy dissipate approximately a day after the procedure. Breastfeeding mothers who are considered for colonoscopy should harvest their breast milk prior to the procedure and store it; otherwise, the first harvest should be discarded and must not be fed to the infant. Breastfeeding may be resumed after discarding the first harvest.