For those suffering with digestive pain or from colon conditions such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease or colon cancer, a colonoscopy is an exam that will have to be performed at some point. Even though the procedure is rather simple and usually only takes a few minutes to complete, it is often quite dreaded by anyone who has to go through it. From the discomforting preparation process to the idea of having something stuck up your rectum, a lot of patients fear having a colonoscopy. Even though the examination and the preparation will probably not be the most joyful of experiences, it still remains the best way to study and survey the condition of the inner walls and lining of the colon and rectum.
What Is A Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure used to view the inside of the colon and rectum. A long, thin, flexible tube like device called a colonoscope is inserted through the anus into the rectum and then into the colon. The scope has a camera and light attached to the end of it and as it is passed through the colon and rectum it sends back video that the doctor can view on a monitor. If the doctor or trained practitioner finds any areas of concern such as lesions or colon polyps they can biopsy or remove a polyp during the examination. There is no need for a separate procedure to remove or biopsy.
The patient is sedated before the exam begins and it usually only lasts a few minutes. Patients will normally have to have someone drive the home afterwards as they will still feel the effects of sedation.
The colon is a long organ, somewhere between 5 and 6 feet, and in order for the physician to have an unobstructed view of the condition of the inner walls the colon must first be cleared of all fecal matter. This is where the importance of proper colonoscopy preparation comes into play.
A lot of people find this to be the hardest and most unpleasant part of having a colonoscopy. This usually stems from having to drink large amount of mixtures and liquid specifically used to clean out the colon. The mixtures are also not the best tasting concoctions either. Some of the popular brands prescribed to patients are GoLytley, Nulytely, Suprep and Moviprep, although other brands may be used.
The day before the exam the patient is usually not allowed to have solid food and is put on a clear liquid diet. Drinks such as ginger ale, apple juice, water or gatorade can be used. As long as it does not contain red, blue or purple dyes any liquid able to be seen through should be alright to use.
The mixtures are usually taken the night and/or the morning before the colonscopy procedure is scheduled. The amount of the mixtures and liquid needed makes this hard for a lot of people to swallow, literally. And of course, when you take in a large amount of these colon cleansing mixtures, they will eventually need to find their way out. Being in close proximity to a washroom is vital during this step. It will be almost impossible to fight the urge, so to avoid accidents being near a toilet is a good idea.
Taking the mixtures and expelling everything in the colon may have to be done at least twice before the exam. But once this hellish part of the process is over with the procedure itself might seem like a walk in the park.
For some lucky patients, colonoscopy prep pills may make the entire process a little easier to handle. Instead of being made to drink the horrid tasting mixtures, pills or tablets can be used and the patient can drink a clear liquid of their choosing. Fluid intake is still large in quantity and very important when taking tablets to fight off dehydration, but not having to deal with the mixtures makes this a welcome alternative for some individuals. There are some risks involved with taking these tablets, particularly to the kidneys, so anyone with any type of kidney disease or condition is not a prime candidate to go this route. These tablets are usually only given to healthy patients with no history of conditions that may pose a risk.
Those with colon or rectum conditions severe enough that it mandated a colostomy have probably had at least one colonoscopy before. It is the most complete and through way to examine the inside of the colon for lesions, ruptures, polyps and other areas of concern that may endanger the health of the colon or the rectum. While not the most pleasant of procedures to have to prepare for, a colonoscopy can be an invaluable asset for determining colon health and course of treatment for those in pain and in need.
Check out the video below for more information on a the procedure and how to prepare for a colonoscopy.