Dismiss Modal

A colonoscopy is an exam that's used to look at the inside of the colon or large intestine. Sometimes referred to as a lower endoscopy, it'’'s the best way to screen for colon cancer . It's also used to check for inflammation and colon polyps.

Conditions that a Colonoscopy Can Diagnose

  • Bowel obstruction: Also known as intestinal obstruction, a blockage that keeps food from passing through the intestines
  • Colon cancer : Cancer that starts in the large intestine
  • Crohn’s disease : A type of inflammatory bowel disease, which usually impacts either the small or large intestine
  • Diverticulitis : An inflammation or infection of one or more small pouches inside the colon, or large intestine
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding : Bleeding that can occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease : An umbrella term, which includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Ulcerative colitis : Another type of inflammatory bowel disease, which impacts the colon or rectum

A screening colonoscopy is also recommended for adults over age 50 to check for colon polyps and colon cancer. If you have a family history of colon cancer and other risks, your physician may recommend having a screening colonoscopy at an earlier age.

Prior to the Procedure

  • Talk to your doctor about any medications/vitamins/herbs you are taking as you may need to stop certain ones before surgery.
  • Stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood thinners one week prior to the procedure.
  • Discontinue any diet medications or St. John’s Wort two weeks before the procedure.
  • Discuss any possible bleeding disorders or other medical conditions that you may have.
  • Patients complete a thorough colon cleansing prior to a colonoscopy by drinking a solution that removes all waste from the region.
  • Based on physician recommendations, patients may also go on a restricted liquid diet, take laxatives and self-administer enemas prior to the procedure.
  • It’s critical that the colon and rectum be completely empty.
  • The day before surgery, do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • You will have blood samples taken in case you need a blood transfusion.

Day of the Procedure

  • Follow the instructions provided by your gastroenterologist.
  • Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After the Procedure

  • You may have fullness, gas and mild cramping for the next 24 hours. This will improve over time.
  • You may have light bleeding at your next bowel movement. This is normal. If there is more than a couple of teaspoons of blood, please contact your doctor.

Recovery: What to Expect in the Next Few Weeks

Most patients will be fully recovered by the next day. If you had biopsies, you will be advised to refrain from lifting for the next week.

Endoscopy/Colonoscopy Q&A

What does the procedure involve?

Patients are lightly sedated prior to the procedure. In WakeMed’s endoscopy suite, the doctor will insert a thin, flexible endoscope that will travel throughout the colon and intestines, showing inside the lower digestive tract. Gas is pumped into the colon to allow for a better view. If a polyp is found, the gastroenterologist can remove it for evaluation. If bleeding is found, the doctor can seal these areas.

How many incisions are made?

No incisions are made during this procedure.

How long do I stay in the hospital?

Patients will recover for about one to two hours and then be discharged. You will be required to have someone drive you home.

What is the recovery time?

Most patients are fully recovered by the next day. If you had biopsies taken, you will have to limit lifting heavy objects for seven to 10 days.

If you or someone you care for is experiencing worrisome symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our adult gastroenterologists, pediatric gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeons.