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    How Is a Colonoscopy Performed? continued...

    The scope bends so the doctor can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the doctor move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the doctor see better.

    You may feel mild cramping during the procedure. You can reduce the cramping by taking several slow, deep breaths during the procedure. When the doctor has finished, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is carefully examined.

    During the colonoscopy, if the doctor sees something that may be abnormal, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (called a biopsy), and abnormal growths, or polyps, can be identified and removed. In many cases, colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment without the need for a major operation.

    What Happens After a Colonoscopy?

    You will stay in a recovery room for about 30 minutes for observation after a colonoscopy.

    • You may feel some cramping or a sensation of having gas, but this usually passes quickly.
    • You can resume your normal diet.

    Read your discharge instructions carefully. Certain drugs, such as blood thinners, may need to be avoided temporarily if biopsies were taken or polyps were removed.

    Bleeding and puncture of the colon are rare but possible complications of colonoscopy. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

    • Excessive or prolonged rectal bleeding
    • Severe abdominal pain, fever, or chills

    A noninvasive procedure, the virtual colonoscopy, has been developed. In this procedure, a special diet is given for two days before the procedure. Less intense bowel preparation is performed at home. During a procedure a probe is inserted into the rectum. Air is forced into the colon and images are taken with the use of a CT scan. This procedure is almost equally as effective as a standard colonoscopy, in that the procedure cannot visualize small or flat lesions. If something suspicious is seen on the images performed during this procedure, a regular colonoscopy or a biopsy will be necessary. Routine use of this procedure remains controversial.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on July 27, 2014
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