Colonoscopy is the minimally invasive endoscopic examination of the large colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. It may provide a visual diagnosis (e.g. ulceration, polyps) and grants the opportunity for biopsy or removal of suspected lesions. Virtual colonoscopy, which uses 2D and 3D imagery reconstructed from computed tomography (CT) scans or from nuclear magnetic resonance (MR) scans, is also possible, as a totally non-invasive medical test, although it is not standard and still under investigation regarding its diagnostic abilities. Furthermore, virtual colonoscopy does not allow for therapeutic maneuvers such as polyp/tumor removal or biopsy nor visualization of lesions smaller than 5 millimeters. If a growth or polyp is detected using CT colonography, a standard colonoscopy would still need to be performed. Colonoscopy can remove polyps smaller than one millimeter. Once polyps are removed, they can be studied with the aid of a microscope to determine if they are precancerous or not. Colonoscopy is similar but not the same as sigmoidoscopy. The difference between colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy is related to which parts of the colon each can examine. Sigmoidoscopy allows doctors to view only the final two feet of the colon, while colonoscopy allows an examination of the entire colon, which measures four to five feet in length. Often a sigmoidoscopy is used as a screening procedure for a full colonoscopy.


The patient may be asked to skip aspirin and aspirin products such as salsalate for up to ten days before the procedure to avoid the risk of bleeding if a polypectomy is performed during the procedure. Often a blood test is performed before the procedure and upon a high platelet count, a clot time test may be done. A clotting time greater than ten minutes may contraindicate polyp removal. [1], [2] The colon must be free of solid matter for the test to be performed properly. For one to three days, the patient is required to follow a low fibre or clear fluid only diet. Then, on the day before the colonoscopy, the patient is either given a laxative preparation (such as Bisacodyl, phospho soda, sodium picosulfate, or sodium phosphate and/or magnesium citrate) and large quantities of fluid or whole bowel irrigation is performed using a solution of polyethylene glycol and electrolytes. During the procedure the patient is often given sedation intravenously.

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