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A colonoscopy is a non-surgical endoscopic procedure. This routine exam allows your surgeon to see directly inside your lower digestive tract (colon and rectum) and can help diagnose diseases of the colon. It is also the best method of screening for colon cancer.

The colonoscope consists of a long, flexible tube with a camera and light source on one end. The colonoscope is connected to a TV monitor so that the inside of the colon may be viewed. Your surgeon gently advances the scope through your colon under direct vision. Instruments for performing biopsies and removing polyps can be passed through the scope if needed.

A colon and rectum normally have a smooth lining. If the surgeon sees polyps during a colonoscopy, they can often be removed. Larger growths cannot be removed during colonoscopy, but the surgeon will take a biopsy to study the tissue. These types of growths usually require a surgery at a later date to remove. Colonoscopy helps the surgeon diagnose other abnormalities, such as bleeding or an area of inflammation, and to prescribe the best treatment.

Preparing for Colonoscopy

Bowel Prep instructions for colon surgery – Click here for more info.

You should be on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours before surgery. No food or drink may be taken after midnight the night before surgery. To make sure that the colon is clean for surgery, you will be asked to drink a laxative solution or bowel prep to completely purge your system of stool. This will result in diarrhea. It is extremely important that you follow these instructions carefully, as incomplete cleaning of the colon may result in complications.

Because you will be sedated during the colonoscopy, you will need to make advanced arrangements for someone to take you home following the exam.

During Colonoscopy

On arrival to the endoscopy area, an IV catheter will be inserted into a vein in your arm. You will meet with an anesthesiologist prior to the procedure. During the procedure, your vital signs will be monitored, and you will receive sedating medications. The lubricated colonoscope is then inserted slowly and gently through your anus and passed under direct vision to the beginning of the colon. Because your doctor needs a clear view, air is used to inflate your colon. Polyps will be removed or biopsies will be taken as needed. The procedure usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. When the exam is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery area.

After Colonoscopy

While recovering, you’ll be monitored for about an hour until you are ready to go home. Later that day, you will be able to eat normally and resume some of your usual activities, unless otherwise directed. You should not drive until the day following the procedure. It is normal to experience some gas pains and to pass the air used during the colonoscopy. Try taking a walk to help relieve the bloated feeling.


Your doctor will tell you the results of your colonoscopy either before you leave for home, or within a few days after the procedure. If a polyp was removed, or a biopsy performed, your doctor will call you in about 5 days to 7 days with the results. If necessary, further studies or treatments may be recommended.


Complications of colonoscopy are rare, but can include bleeding, perforation of the colon, spleen injury, or anesthetic complications. Call your surgeon if you have severe abdominal pain, high fever or bleeding.