Colonoscopy is a type of endoscopy that allows a medical practitioner to examine the bowel (colon). A colonoscope is a long thin and flexible tube equipped with a small camera and light and some surgical tools.
It is inserted into the body via the anus and an image of the bowel wall appears on a television monitor so that he medical specialist can diagnose any bowel condition and - in some cases - carry out small procedures, such as taking tissue samples (biopsies) or removing polyps.
As a colonoscopy does not require conventional surgery, there are no incisions in the skin. This places less stress on the body and consequently the procedure is much quicker, and recovery time is much faster than with conventional surgery. There is also of course no surgical scarring.
A colonoscopy is generally recommended in the following circumstances...
- Where this is or has been bleeding from the anus / rectum.
- Where an Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – a test which monitors blood in faeces (which is invisible to the naked eye) results in a positive reading.
- Where cancer of the bowel runs in the family of the patient.
- Where the patient has had (cancerous or precancerous) polyps removed previously.
The bowel must be empty for the colonoscopy procedure. Special medication is available to help clear the bowels, which needs to be taken the day before the procedure. No food or liquid should be consumed in the 6 hours before the colonoscopy.
A mild anaesthetic is administered before the colonoscopy procedure begins. The procedure itself generally takes no longer than half an hour. As the patient has been sedated, they are kept under observation for 1-2 hours afterwards, after which they may return home.
Patients should not return to work on the same day and should rest at home. Patients should also not drive themselves home after the procedure.