What is a Colonoscopy?

By  , Expert Content
Jul 07, 2012

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What is a Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is an invasive medical test which is done to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). It is a useful test to evaluate the inside of the colon (large intestine or large bowel) if you have symptoms such as bleeding from the anus, pains in the lower abdomen, persistent diarrhoea, or other symptoms related to colon.

What are the colon and rectum?

The colon and rectum are the most important parts of the large bowel or intestine. Colon forms most of large intestine hence the two terms are often used interchangeably. Digestive waste from the small intestine enters the colon. In the colon water from this waste is absorbed and stool is formed. The rectum is part of the large bowel which connects the colon to the anus(the opening through which stool leaves the body). Rectum is about 6 inches long and bowel movement is controlled by muscles and nerves of the rectum and anus.

How is colonoscopy done
Colonoscopy is usually done as an outpatient procedure. The bowel has to be clean so that it can be examined during colonoscopy. Hence follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding taking laxative (medicine to open your bowels and clean it). If the bowel is not clean that the physician cannot clearly view the colon. You will be given a sedative medicine intravenously (in the vein) to make you feel relaxed and drowsy.

Colonoscopy, is done using colonoscope—a long, flexible, tubular instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter that has a light source attached to it. The colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and slowly advanced into the colon (large intestine) so that the rectum and colon can be examined. The colonoscope has a channel through which medical instruments or manipulators can be inserted to do medical procedures such as take biopsy, remove abnormal growths, or polyps.

Why is colonoscopy done

Some of the common reasons for which colonoscopy is done include:

  • Examine the large bowel for colorectal cancer or polyps. Colonoscopy is considered as an effective screening tool to prevent colorectal cancer (especially in people who have factors which significantly increase the risk of colon cancer).
  • Diagnose the cause of blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Diagnose the cause of change in bowel habits
  • Diagnose the cause of dark or black stools
  • Diagnose the cause of chronic diarrhea.
  • Diagnose the cause of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Diagnose the cause of sudden, unexplained weight loss.
  • Check the colon if result of stool test or barium enema test are abnormal
  • Treat and follow-up inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Diagnose cause of long-term, unexplained belly pain.


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