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Colonoscopy (cont.)

Are There Alternatives to Colonoscopy?

Other tests can help a doctor detect diseases of the colon. Sometimes these tests can be done instead of a colonoscopy, but at other times they are performed in addition to a colonoscopy because each test can provide different types of information.

  • With similar preparation, a special X-ray examination of the entire colon, a barium enema, can be used instead of or in addition to colonoscopy. For this test, a liquid called barium is inserted into the colon using a small tube through the anus. X-rays are then taken of the abdomen with the barium inside. This liquid is seen on the X-ray and is used to outline the irregularities of the bowel wall.
  • Another test called a sigmoidoscopy can be performed. This test is very similar to a colonoscopy but requires less preparation. The instrument used, a sigmoidoscope, is 2 foot long and allows visualization of the anal canal, rectum, and the part of the colon closest to the rectum known as the sigmoid colon. Although this test is important, it does not allow detection of abnormalities in other areas of the colon because the sigmoidoscope is much shorter than the colonoscope.
  • CT scans are often used to investigate abnormalities of the abdomen. Gastrografin is a liquid similar to barium, which allows the bowel to be better seen during a CT scan. This liquid, also called oral contrast, is swallowed and then allowed to pass from the stomach, through the small intestine (the ileum) and then through the large intestine (the colon) before the CT scan is performed. In this way, a CT scan can be helpful to investigate abdominal and bowel problems.
  • Other tests include balloon endoscopy, push endoscopy, and virtual colonoscopy.

Your doctor will decide which of these tests is most appropriate for you.

When to Seek Medical Care for Colonoscopy Complications

Call a doctor if any unexpected symptoms occur, including:

  • Persistent nausea
  • Persistent but minor bleeding
  • Ongoing bloating and abdominal discomfort

If there are additional concerns, call the doctor's office for advice and evaluation.

Minor symptoms, such as bloating, are common after this procedure. More serious symptoms should prompt the patient to seek urgent medical attention. Call your physician and go directly to the emergency department if the patient experiences any of the following:


FDA. FDA approves first non-invasive DNA screening test for colorectal cancer.

American Society for Gastrointestinal. "Understanding Colonoscopy." 2017.

CDC. "Colorectal Cancer Statistics." Updated: Jun 07, 2017.

Lewis, JR, et al. Update on Colonoscopy Preparation, Premedication and Sedation." Medscape. Updated: 2013.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Colonoscopy (Prep, Risks, and Side Effects):

Colonoscopy - Describe Your Experience

Please describe your experience with a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy - Reasons

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Colonoscopy - Procedure

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Colonoscopy - Side Effects

What side effects, if any, did you have after your colonoscopy procedure?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Colonoscopy »

Colonoscopy enables visual inspection of the entire large bowel from the distal rectum to the cecum.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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