Know before you go: Colonoscopy

For a look at what happens before, during and after a colonoscopy, check out this video with Cedrek McFadden, MD, a colorectal surgeon with Prisma Health.

Video summary:

There are two general reasons why people come to have a colonoscopy:

  • They have symptoms such as bleeding, pain, changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss. We call this kind of colonoscopy a diagnostic colonoscopy.
  • Patients who have reached the age of 45* or have a family history of colorectal cancers or polyps, but don’t have any worrisome symptoms. We call this kind of colonoscopy a screening colonoscopy.

*As of May 2018, the American Cancer Society now recommends people begin getting screening colonoscopies at age 45.

There are several different prep options. With the prescription prep Dr. McFadden shows, you empty the medicine into a cup and then mix in water, sports drink, tea or juice. It is easiest to drink when cold, like a regular beverage.

You have to get the mixture down pretty quickly, but don’t need to chug it; take sips.

On the morning of your procedure, you’ll be taken to a prep room. A team member will connect your IV, take your history and go through some other intake items.

You’ll need to bring your ID, any insurance cards you have and any medications you take – prescription, over-the-counter, supplements and herbs included.

Leave jewelry and valuables at home and leave your cell phone with a family member.

Wear clothes you can take off and put on easily.

Your family will be able to be in the room with you while you’re preparing for the procedure. Then you’ll be rolled in your bed to the procedure room.

Team members who will care for you in the procedure room include …

  • A surgical tech, who is responsible for the equipment and the scope.
  • A CRNA, who keeps you asleep and comfortable during procedure
  • A nurse, who is responsible for documentation and flow of procedure

We use propofol as anesthesia for most colonoscopies.

If you were to take your colon and stretch it, it probably would be about as tall as you are. The colonoscope is that long, too. It’s flexible and there are several buttons that control its movements.

The doctor is able to remove a lot of what he or she sees during a colonoscopy with the colonoscope. If the doctor can’t remove it, he or she might talk to you about surgery or some other procedure.

During the colonoscopy, the doctor takes a look around the large intestine looking for polyps, or bumps in the colon. If a polyp is found, it is taken out and sent to a lab, where technicians look at it under a microscope.

A colonoscopy is very safe, but there are potential risks, as with any procedure. Those risks include bleeding or a perforation in the intestine, but those are very uncommon. If they occur, they may require surgery to correct.

You probably won’t remember anything from the procedure room, because you’ll be asleep. After the procedure, you’ll be taken to a recovery room where you’ll meet back up with your family.

You’ll stay in the recovery room while you awaken from the anesthesia, and until your care team determines it’s safe for you to go home. You have to stay in the recovery room a minimum of 30 minutes.

When you leave, you’ll be in a wheelchair and a friend or family member will drive you home. You must have someone with you to drive you home, and it’s important to have someone at home to look after you the rest of the day, too.

When you get home, you can eat what you like. You can start off on a soft food, clear liquid diet, and advance as you can tolerate more. Do not drive for the rest of the day after your colonoscopy.

If your colonoscopy is normal and you have no family history of colon cancer or polyps, you may not need another colonoscopy for 10 years.

To schedule a colonoscopy at a Prisma Health–Upstate facility, call 864-920-1022.

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