What is a colonoscopy?
This procedure involves a colonoscope – a long, thin flexible tube with a ‘video camera’ at the tip – being passed through the rectum into the colon. It allows the doctor to inspect the large intestine and also perform specialised procedures such as taking small tissue samples (biopsies) and removing polyps (benign wart-like growths) if necessary.
Why have a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy can detect inflamed tissue, ulcers and abnormal growths. The procedure is used to look for early signs of colorectal cancer and can help doctors diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the bowel and weight loss. In some individuals with a family history, this may
also be an appropriate test to check for bowel cancer.
Cancer of the bowel?
As cancer of the large bowel can arise from pre-existing polyps it is recommended that all polyps found at the time of colonoscopy be removed. Most polyps can be removed (i.e. Polypectomy) during your colonoscopy. If you have any queries or reservations about this, please discuss this with your doctor prior to being sedated.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
A colonoscopy is performed under sedation, as a day only procedure. Once anaesthetic sedation is given, the doctor inserts the flexible colonoscope (‘scope’) through the anus and slowly guides it into the colon. A small camera in the end of the scope transmits a video image to a monitor, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the intestinal lining.
Once the scope has reached the opening to the small intestine, it is slowly withdrawn and the lining of the large intestine is carefully examined again. Depending on the findings, biopsies may be taken and sent to pathology. The doctor and medical staff monitor your vital signs during the procedure. The procedure itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?
For a successful colonoscopy, it is essential to empty the bowel thoroughly of all waste material, which can be done by taking bowel preparation medication (see below). Failure to do this prior to colonoscopy may mean the doctor won’t be able to see important markers, or you may have to return for another repeat procedure.
A complete bowel preparation consists of:
1. Modifying your diet
This may involve following a special low residue diet for several days prior to the colonoscopy.
2. Taking a bowel preparation medication
There are many effective bowel preparations (i.e. a laxative medication that causes diarrhoea and empties the colon) available, however depending on your medical condition, the doctor will recommend the right one for you. Our hospital will provide the specific preparation medication and complete tailored instructions on how to take it, prior to your procedure.
3. Increasing your fluid intake
Specific preparation instructions are designed for you and will be provided to you by the Centre, however you're going to lose a lot of fluid as your bowels are flushed clean. Even mild dehydration can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including dizziness and headache, so it's important to drink plenty of clear liquids before, during, and after the preparation process.
What do I do before the procedure?
Complete and return all pre-admission paperwork well prior to your scheduled appointment; this includes informing the Centre of all medical conditions and any medications or supplements taken regularly;
Familiarise yourself with the patient information brochure provided to you prior to your procedure.This provides all the necessary details regarding the hospital facility and what to bring on the day;
You should also follow the detailed preparation instructions provided prior to your procedure. This includes prior to your appointment time;
Prescribed medications should be taken as per normal with a small sip of water up to 2 hours prior to your procedure.take any medication within of arriving for your procedure; and
Arrive at the hospital dressed in comfortable, loose fitting clothing (e.g. shirt and pants or shirt and skirt etc.) Further information is provided in the patient information brochure.