What is Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a safe, effective method of examining the full lining of the colon and rectum, using a long, flexible, tubular instrument. It is used to diagnose colon and rectum problems and to perform biopsies and remove colon polyps. Most colonoscopies are done on an outpatient basis with minimal inconvenience and discomfort.
Who should have a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is routinely recommended for adults 50 years of age or older as part of a colorectal cancer screening program. Patients with a family history of colon or rectal cancer may be advised to have their colonoscopy at an earlier age. Your physician may also recommend a colonoscopy exam if you have a change in bowel habit or bleeding, indicating a possible problem in the colon or rectum.
A colonoscopy may be necessary to:
- Check unexplained abdominal symptoms.
- Check inflammatory bowel disease (colitis).
- Verify findings of polyps or tumors located with a barium enema exam.
- Examine patients who test positive for blood in the stool.
- Monitor patients with a personal or family history of colon polyps or cancer.
How is colonoscopy performed?
The bowel must first be thoroughly cleared of all residue before a colonoscopy. This is done one to two days before the exam with a preparation prescribed by your physician.
Patients receive intravenous sedation, or “twilight sleep,” for this procedure. The colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and is advanced to the portion of the colon where the small intestine joins the colon. During a complete examination of the bowel, your physician will remove polyps or take biopsies as necessary.
The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. Following the colonoscopy, there may be slight discomfort, which quickly improves with the expelling of gas. Most patients can resume their regular diet and some activities the same day.
What are the benefits of colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is more accurate than an X-ray exam of the colon to detect polyps or early cancer. With colonoscopy, it is now possible to detect and remove most polyps without abdominal surgery. Removing polyps is an important step in the prevention of colon cancer, because most colon cancers begin as a benign polyp.
What are the risks of colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a very safe procedure with complications occurring in less than 1% of patients. These risks include bleeding, a tear in the intestine, risks of anesthesia and failure to detect a polyp.
Note: Recommendations for frequency of colonoscopy may vary from patient to patient. We will advise you based on your particular risk factors, and we will work with you to determine whether your insurance will cover a repeat procedure at the interval we recommend.
As a courtesy to you, we will be happy to submit your charges to your insurance company.
We participate with the following insurance plans:
Aetna, AmeriHealth, AmeriHealth Mercy, Berkshire Health Plan, Independence Blue Cross, Highmark Blue Shield, Capital Blue Cross, Personal Choice, LVHN Health Plan, CIGNA, Devon, Gateway, Geisinger, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Keystone Central, Keystone East, Blue Journey, Medical Assistance, Medicare, Medicare Railroad, Oxford Health Plan, Tricare, United Healthcare and Valley Preferred.
Note: If you don’t see your insurance plan listed, call our office at 610-402-1095. Some insurance plans are part of another plan that may be named above. This list is subject to change.
1. The sedative medication may cause drowsiness for several hours.
Do NOT drive or operate machinery and avoid strenuous exercise for at least the remainder of the day.
2. Because of the air put into the colon during the examination, you may experience some abdominal distention, relieved by passage of gas, for several hours.
3. You may resume your regular diet. It is advisable to eat lightly for a few hours until any feeling of bloating is past.
4. Please contact our office if you have any of the following problems:
• Excessive Rectal Bleeding
• Severe Abdominal Pain
• Fever or Chills
5. You may resume your regular medication. However, if a polyp was removed, ask your doctor or call the office for specific instructions regarding aspirin-containing compounds or other blood-thinning medication.
6. Call 610-402-1095 if you have any problems or questions.
After anorectal surgery
- After your surgery, go home and rest. Moderate activity is allowed, but avoid straining,
squatting, and avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Avoid heavy lifting for four weeks
- Do not drive while taking prescription pain medications, as they may cause drowsiness.
Driving is not recommended until you are comfortable sitting and can perform your
normal daily activities.
- Follow a high fiber diet, including vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Drink at least
six to eight glasses of water daily. Do not drink alcohol while taking prescription
pain medicine, and generally avoid spicy food, beer, and wine, as these may cause
- Following the diet above will help to keep bowel movements soft but formed, and will help to prevent constipation. If no bowel movement occurs by the day after surgery, take a laxative such as Milk of Magnesia (2 Tbsp.) or bisacodyl (2 tablets). If no bowel movement occurs by the next day, you may use a fleet enema or call the office. Try not to strain.
- Fiber supplements (such as psyllium, Metamucil, Citrucel, Konsyl, Benefiber) help to
keep the stool soft, but you must drink adequate water for them to work. Fiber
supplements are safe to take every day (and work best if taken daily). One dose daily is
usually sufficient, and larger doses may cause gas and bloating.
MEDICATIONS, INCLUDING PAIN MEDICINES
- You may resume your usual medications, except as specified below.
- Prescription narcotic pain medicines may cause drowsiness, nausea, and constipation.
Use them as needed and as directed, but try to switch to acetaminophen (Tylenol) or
ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as soon as possible to avoid these side effects.
- While taking prescription pain meds, do not drive or operate machinery.
- Do not take aspirin or aspirin-containing compounds until after your first post-op office
visit, unless other arrangements have been made.
SITZ BATH AND PERSONAL HYGIENE
- Starting the evening of or the morning after surgery, use the sitz bath or soak in the
bathtub for 5 to 15 minutes, at least three times a day, using warm water. You also may
take a shower starting the morning after surgery.
- After bowel movements, wipe lightly, and then use the sitz bath or bathtub using warm
water. When bathing, you may use a mild soap and water to gently cleanse the anal area.
- It is not uncommon to have difficulty emptying your bladder after surgery. You can
encourage urination by sitting in the warm sitz bath or by standing in the shower. It is
usually NOT helpful to strain or to drink large volumes of fluids at this point. If you are
unable to empty your bladder and you become distended, call our office, as it may be
necessary to have a catheter inserted.
- You may have some bleeding with bowel movements for up to six weeks after surgery.
If bleeding increases or does not stop, call our office.
- You may have sutures (stitches) after surgery. Generally, these dissolve on their own.
Also, you may have some packing that will pass by the first bowel movement. Do not be
alarmed by swelling in the anal area; this is not hemorrhoids, but rather a reaction to the
surgery. The swelling will decrease with time, and sitz baths help this process.
- Be sure to keep your post-op appointments at our office. These visits are essential to the
final results. In general, we will see you in the office within two weeks post-op, and then
about four weeks later. Insurance forms and notes for work may be taken care of at the
office, and we will answer any questions you may have about activity, work, diet, or
If you have any questions or problems, kindly call our office at (610) 402-1095.
After abdominal surgery
- You may go up and down stairs as tolerated.
- You should walk daily, around the house or outside, weather permitting.
- You may resume light housework in 6 weeks.
- Refrain from heavy lifting for 3 months.
- You may drive a car beginning about 3 weeks after surgery. Do not drive if taking prescription pain medication.
- You may resume your normal medications.
- We will discuss when you can return to work, sports and exercise at your first post-operative visit.
You may bathe or shower and gently wash the incision with soap and water. It is common to feel a sharp sticking or pulling sensation in the area of the incision. These are normal healing sensations. If you develop fever or redness or swelling around the incision, please call the office. Nausea or vomiting should be reported to the office.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call the office at 610-402-1095.