Colonoscopy is an exam used to diagnose various diseases and should be performed regularly to maintain good gastrointestinal health. The exam itself is performed in an endoscopy room. A colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and the entire length of the colon is observed with the camera.
The normal colon of an adult measures approximately 2 meters, the colonoscopy explores the entire colon. The rectoscopy only explores the first 25 cm of the colon and the rectosigmoidoscopy explores the first 50 cm of the colon. Although a doctor may recommend exploration of the rectum in different sizes, only colonoscopy explores the entirety of this organ.
The procedure requires the patient to undergo a diet in the preceding days and to consume laxatives to ensure a successful examination. The preparation varies according to each medical center, so it is important to ask the requirements at the clinic where the procedure will be performed. Those patients who do not follow the requirements in the days before their exam risk that the presence of diseases will not be detected.
It is important to note that the consumption of medications for chronic use should be consulted with the doctor to determine if it is advisable to avoid these medications on the day of your procedure. Most medications can be consumed with just a glass of water. However, medicines for diabetes mellitus, whether they are pills or insulin, should not be consumed. In addition, anticoagulated patients must inform the doctor prior to the procedure and the doctor must indicate whether or not to suspend the medication.
The procedure varies in its duration, generally ranging between 30 and 90 minutes. During the examination, the doctor introduces air through the endoscope in order to determine if there are polyps, diverticula, cancer and to identify causes of bleeding. Although the test itself is painless since the patient is asleep, certain complications can occur as it is an invasive test. The two most frequent complications are perforation and bleeding, their percentage is 0.03 to 0.81%. These risks can occur even up to 7 days after the procedure. In addition, the patient may present abdominal pain due to the placement of air during the procedure, as well as diarrhea or inability to defecate for approximately 2 days. Abdominal pain should not be intolerable.
After a colonoscopy it is recommended to have a light diet, that is to say, to eat low-fat and irritating foods (ideally not to eat fast foods) and not to consume alcohol. It is also recommended not to drive for 6 hours.
Preventive Medicine: the role of colonoscopy
Colonoscopies, if they are normal, should be repeated approximately every 5 years and if any disease is identified, this time may change. The importance is that this is the only way to diagnose certain very serious diseases such as colon cancer. For this reason, it is important to perform this test if a patient presents symptoms such as anemia, a positive fecal occult blood test, weight loss, bleeding with defecation, diarrhea lasting more than a month and a half, or if the patient have a history of colon cancer in siblings, parents, or grandparents. In addition, the medical recommendation is to perform this test from the age of 45 for colon cancer screening.