The procedure uses a colonoscope which has a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, to look inside the rectum and entire colon.  Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, and polyps—extra pieces of tissue that grow on the lining of the intestine.  A gastroenterologist, the doctor who specializes in digestive diseases, performs this procedure.

The procedure differs from virtual colonoscopy, which uses a combination of x rays and computer technology to create images of the rectum and entire colon.

A colonoscopy is performed to help diagnose

  • changes in bowel habits
  • abdominal pain
  • bleeding from the anus
  • weight loss


The risks of colonoscopy include

  • bleeding
  • perforation—a hole or tear in the lining of the colon
  • diverticulitis—a condition that occurs when small pouches in the colon, called diverticula, become irritated, swollen, and infected
  • cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack, low blood pressure, or the heart skipping beats or beating too fast or too slow
  • severe abdominal pain
  • death, although this risk is rare

Bleeding and perforation are the most common complications from colonoscopy. Most cases of bleeding occur in people who have polyps removed.




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