A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your lower digestive tract, also known as your colon and rectum. The procedure uses a colonoscope (“scope”) — a long flexible tube with a light and camera at the end — to examine the inside lining of the colon. It allows the doctor performing the test to find and remove precancerous polyps and early colon cancers.
The day before the test, you will do a bowel prep to empty and clean your colon. The bowel prep includes a strong laxative and liquid diet. Following the directions of the bowel prep makes it easier for your doctor to detect polyps and other abnormalities during the colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy is performed in a hospital or medical clinic. Before the procedure starts, you will be given anesthesia or medication through an IV to make you comfortable. Then, the doctor will gently insert the colonoscope into the rectum and guide it through the entire colon.
Your doctor will take pictures and remove polyps along the way. He/she will then send the polyps to a lab for further testing. If a polyp cannot be removed, a sample may be taken. This is called a biopsy.
The colonoscopy usually takes 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Risks of colonoscopy include bleeding, infection, and perforation; however, complications occur in only 1 out of 1,000 colonoscopies at UCLA Health.
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