It’s hard to find a more dreaded routine exam than a colonoscopy!
Colonoscopy is an invasive endoscopic examination with which it is possible to observe the internal surface of the colon and rectum used for the diagnosis of chronic inflammatory diseases (chronic diarrhea), diverticula, polyps, but generally the most common reason for which the examination is a routine examination for colon cancer.
Colonoscopy is also important as secondary prevention of colorectal cancer. It is usually performed if the patient tests positive for occult blood in the stool, which is part of the regional screening programs for the early detection of colorectal cancer, aimed at the population between 50 and 69 years of age.
How is a colonoscopy done?
During this procedure, a 1.5-meter flexible tube equipped with a small video camera is inserted, and to ensure better visualization of the mucosa, carbon dioxide is blown through the colonoscope, in order to stretch the intestinal walls.
This test can present itself as pain and create a feeling of shame and vulnerability. For this reason, light sedation (conscious sedation) with hypnotic and analgesic drugs, administered intravenously, is generally used to promote relaxation and reduce discomfort and pain. Only in special cases is deep sedation used which completely numbs the patient.
During the examination the patient lies on the left side, with the thighs flexed on the pelvis and the knees flexed, in the fetal position.
Any suspicious polyp or abnormal tissue can be removed during examination for a biopsy.
Do you need any kind of special preparation before the exam?
At the time of booking, each center will deliver a sheet with precise instructions in this regard.
It is very important to strictly follow the instructions so as not to have to repeat the procedure a second time, in case the intestinal wall is not free enough to be examined well. This is one of the most annoying aspects of research because it requires taking a laxative to completely cleanse the intestines.
Regarding nutrition, the restrictions generally refer to the two or three days before the exam, in which it is necessary to abstain from all foods rich in waste, such as fruits, vegetables, pasta, and whole grains, while it is possible to eat eggs. . , meat, fish, broths, juices, fruit juices, purees, baby food and, in small quantities, refined pasta and bread flours.
From the day or evening before the exam, it is usually necessary to follow a totally liquid diet: therefore, you can only make an inventory of dried fruit (not vegetables), water, chamomile, herbal teas, fruit juices without pulp, refreshments. , coffee or tea without milk, possibly with sugar or honey. The methods and times for taking the laxative may change if the appointment is in the morning or in the afternoon.
It is also necessary to stop taking supplements and drugs that contain iron a few days before the examination (because it stains the mucous membrane).
How long does the exam last?
The duration of the examination depends on the length of the intestine examined and the possible need to perform biopsies and remove polyps. A simple rectosigmoidoscopy can last from 5 to 15 minutes if there are polyps to be removed; It takes a little longer to perform a pancoloscopy, from 30 to 45 minutes.
The methods and times for taking the laxative may change if the appointment is in the morning or in the afternoon.
Is it better than someone takes you to the exam?
Yes, the patient must be accompanied to the clinic and not drive the car to go home, as the sedative action of drugs administered before the colonoscopy could slow down reflexes.
Can I resume my normal life immediately or do I need to take special precautions?
After the test, it is good to rest all day. For 24 hours, you cannot drive or perform other activities that require alertness and quick reflexes, handle dangerous tools or drink alcoholic beverages. The day you undergo the examination you will be able to resume eating normally, starting with light foods.