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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, and is also used to check for inflammation and colon polyps.

WakeMed’s gastroenterologists have years of experience in performing colonoscopies, and are experts in using the findings from this procedure to accurately diagnose and treat patients.

Conditions that a Colonoscopy Is Used For

Some of the conditions a colonoscopy can be used to diagnose include:

  • 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.

What to Expect from a Colonoscopy

colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure, and patients are lightly sedated prior to the procedure. The procedure itself takes about 20 to 60 minutes.

In WakeMed’s endoscopy suite, the doctor inserts 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 sometimes seal these areas.

How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy

Before a colonoscopy, the patient will need to completely empty out the colon by drinking a solution that helps to remove all waste. Based on the gastroenterologist’s recommendation, the patient may also go on a restricted liquid diet, take laxatives, or administer enemas prior to the procedure.

It’s critical that the colon and rectum be completely empty. The day before surgery, patients cannot eat or drink anything after midnight.

The patient’s gastroenterologist will explain any individual instructions.

What to Expect from a Colonoscopy

  • Talk to the doctor about any medications, vitamins and herbs you’re taking.
  • Stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin) and other blood thinners one week before.
  • Stop taking any diet medications and St. John’s Wort two weeks before.
  • Discuss any possible bleeding disorders or other medical conditions you may have. You may need to have blood samples taken in case you need a blood transfusion.

On the day of the colonoscopy, patients should follow all instructions provided by the gastroenterologist. The doctor or nurse will provide information on when to arrive at the hospital.

After a Colonoscopy

Usually, the doctor will talk with the patient after the procedure to provide a preliminary report. The patient spends an hour or two recovering, and is then discharged.  Someone will be required to drive the patient home.

After a colonoscopy, patients may feel fullness and experience gas and mild cramping for the first 24 hours. This improves over time. Patients may also experience light bleeding at their next bowel movement. This is normal. If there is more than a couple of teaspoons of blood, patients should contact their doctor. Most patients will feel fully recovered by the next day. For patients who had biopsies taken, they’ll be advised to refrain from lifting heavy objects for the next week.

After about a week, the full report from the colonoscopy will be available.

Make an Appointment

If you or someone you care for needs to schedule a colonoscopy, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of WakeMed’s experienced gastroenterologists.