A colonoscopy uses a fiber-optic camera to visually examine the colon and rectum for polyps and tumors. A colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light inside its tip. It is about the thickness of an adult finger. The tube is flexible and can be maneuvered to investigate the inside lining of the colon. The camera sends magnified images of the colon to a television screen.
The colonoscope can be used to perform treatment as well as viewing the colon. Small surgical instruments, inserted through the colonoscope, can be used to remove small polyps that are discovered during the examination, without having to perform major surgery. At Keck Medicine of USC, even larger polyps that most other centers would do surgery for can be removed with a scope 78% of the time.
To prepare for a colonoscopy, a patient is usually required to drink a liquid or perform bowel cleansing using laxatives and sometimes enemas. This eliminates all fecal matter from the colon so that the person conducting the test will have a clear view. It is important to clean out well, as this improves the chances that your doctor will get a good view of the intestinal wall and can remove any small polyps.
The procedure is safe and is usually performed with sedation to make the procedure more comfortable.