Virtual colonoscopy is a procedure that creates images of the rectum and colon with the help of xrays and computer. Also called computerized tomography (CT) colonography, the procedure is very helpful in showing irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, and polyps.
Although it sounds similar, virtual colonoscopy is different from colonoscopy. Colonoscopy uses a colonoscope, a flexible and narrow tube with a light and tiny camera to look inside the rectum and entire colon. The virtual colonoscopy procedure on the other hand does not include any colonoscope or and sedatives.
Virtual Colonoscopy is performed by a radiologist in the radiology department of a hospital. The radiologist asks the person to lie on a table and then the radiologist inserts a thin tube through the anus and into the rectum which inflates the large intestine with air for a better view. The table then slides into a tunnel-shaped device x ray images are taken.
Make sure to talk with your gastroenterologist before going for a virtual colonoscopy. Discuss your medical conditions and all prescribed and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements you have been taking. Pregnant women should be extra careful and tell the gastroenterologist about the pregnancy as the fetuses are very sensitive to x-rays.
An effective virtual colonoscopy test requires a clean bowel. There souldn’t be any stool present in the intestine for the test to be successful. For that reason the gastroenterologist will provide some written bowel prep instructions to prepare for the test. Make sure you follow a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before the procedure and avoiding drinks that contain red or purple dye. You may drink strained fruit juice such as apple or white grape, water, plain coffee or tea without cream or milk, sports drinks in flavors and gelatin.
You would need to take laxatives and enemas the night before your virtual colonoscopy test is scheduled. A laxative loosens the stool and increases bowel movements. An enema involves flushing water or laxative into the rectum using a special wash bottle. The bowel prep may cause diarrhea so make sure that you have access to a bathroom.
Remember to drink the liquid with a contrast medium recommended by the gastroenterologist, the night before the procedure. The contrast medium will help create clear images. You lie on your left side on a narrow table that is connected to an MRI or CT machine.
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