Colonoscopy is a procedure that enables us to evaluate the appearance of the inside of the colon (large bowel). This is accomplished by inserting a flexible tube (fiber optic scope) that is about the thickness of a finger into the anus, and then advancing it slowly, under visual control, into the rectum and through the colon. It is performed with the visual control of either looking through the instrument or with viewing a TV monitor.
This test may be done for a variety of reasons. Most often it is done to investigate the finding of blood in the stool, abdominal pain, diarrhea, a change in the bowel habits, or an abnormality found on colon x- ray or a CAT scan. Certain individuals with previous history of polyps or colon cancer and certain individuals with family history of particular malignancies or colon problems may be advised to have periodic colonoscopies because they are at a greater risk of polyps or colon cancer.
If an area needs to be better evaluated, a forceps is passed through the instrument and a biopsy (a sample of the tissue) is obtained and is submitted to pathology for a microscopic exam. If infection is suspected a specimen may be obtained for culturing of any possible bacteria or viruses. If the exam is performed because of bleeding, the site can be identified, sample of tissue obtained (if indicated), and the bleeding controlled by several means. Should there be polyps (benign growths that can lead to cancer) they can frequently be removed through the colonoscope. Removal of these polyps is an important method of preventing colorectal cancer.
Colonoscopy is the best test available to detect and treat abnormalities within the colon. The alternatives to colonoscopy are quite limited. Barium enema is a less accurate test performed with x-ray. It misses lesions more often than a colonoscopy, and, if an abnormality is found, a colonoscopy may still be required to biopsy or remove the abnormality. At times, an abnormality or lesion detected with a barium enema is actually stool or residual food in a poorly cleansed colon. Colonoscopy may then be necessary to clarify the issue.
We are pleased to be able to offer the benefits of colonoscopy to our patients in addition to operative surgery. Please call the office should you have any further questions.