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Colonoscopy and Virtual Colonoscopy

How A Colonoscopy Is Performed

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A colonoscopy is a painless medical procedure that will be performed in the hospital, in an outpatient surgery area or in a doctor's office.

  • Before the procedure begins, you will receive a sedative that will at least make you drowsy and may put you to sleep, as well as a pain reliever.
  • You will lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest. A colonoscope is then inserted through the anus. The colonoscope has a small camera attached to a flexible tube.
  • While looking at a monitor, the doctor gently moves the colonoscope into the colon. This allows the doctor to examine the walls as the scope travels.
  • Air will be inserted through the scope to provide a better view. Suction may be used to remove fluid or stool.
  • Because the doctor gets a better view as the colonoscope is pulled back out, a more careful examination is done while the scope is being pulled out.
  • Tissue samples may be taken with tiny forceps inserted through the scope.
  • Polyps which are shaped like mushrooms may be removed with a wire snare which loops around the polyp. Electricity is then run through the wire to burn or destroy the tissue. This is known as electrocautery: A grounding pad is placed on the body (usually the thigh) before the surgery to protect the patient. Polyps with other shapes will be removed using other tools.
  • Photographs of the inside of the colon may be taken.
  • Specialized procedures may also be done. For instance, laser therapy which uses intense beams of light to precisely cut, burn, or destroy tissue.

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