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Colonoscopy (cont.)

Colonoscopy Risks

As with any procedure, there are risks associated with a colonoscopy. Before obtaining your consent for the procedure, the doctor will tell you about the potential risks.

  • The most common side effects are cramping pain and abdominal swelling caused by the air used to inflate the colon during the procedure. This air is expelled shortly after the procedure, and these symptoms generally resolve without medical treatment.
  • If a biopsy is performed during the procedure, the patient may see small amounts of blood in the bowel movements after the examination. This may last a few days.
  • Though rare, there is potential for the colonoscope to injure the intestinal wall, causing perforation, infection, or bleeding.
  • Although this test is very helpful in finding the cause of many digestive diseases, abnormalities can go undetected. Factors that can affect this include the completeness of the bowel preparation before the procedure, the skill of the operator of the colonoscope, and the patient's anatomy.
  • When this test is performed, the patient will be given sedating medications to make the test more comfortable. Whenever a medication is given, a risk of an allergic reaction or side effect of the medication itself is present. These IV medications are given under medical supervision, and the patient will be monitored during the procedure to lessen the risk of medication-related complications.

Colonoscopy Preparation

A colonoscopy can be performed in a hospital, clinic, or in a doctor's office, depending on the facility and situation. The patient will be given an appointment and a set of instructions to follow before the test is performed.

  • Although the exact instructions given may vary from clinic to clinic, their objective is the same: to clean out the contents of the bowel before the test.
  • This allows the bowel wall to be seen during the test.
  • This system of cleaning the bowel is often called bowel preparation or "prep."
  • The patient will be given a combination of liquid diet, laxatives, or enemas for up to two days prior to the test with instructions on how to use them. Several medications are available for bowel cleansing, including polyethylene glycol 3350 (GoLYTELY, NuLYTELY), magnesium citrate (Citroma), and senna (X-Prep).
  • These medications produce diarrhea, which can be uncomfortable, but unless the bowel is empty of stool, the test can be limited and may need to be repeated at a later date.
  • On the night before the test is to be performed, nothing should be taken by mouth (food or liquids) until after the test is finished.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2016
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