An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube fitted with a light and camera. Using this instrument, your gastroenterologist can view images of the internal gastrointestinal organs on a colour monitor. Endoscopy is a non-surgical procedure done to allow a gastroenterologist an internal visualisation of the gastrointestinal tract. Endoscopies are done for diagnosis or treatment of various conditions of the oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon and rectum. A colonoscopy is an endoscopy done through the anus for conditions affecting the lower intestinal tract.

Why might a colonoscopy be necessary?

Dr Mbao may recommend a colonoscopy to diagnose or treat conditions affecting the duodenum, colon and rectum. These may include hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. A colonoscopy can also be used to investigate the cause of symptoms such as rectal bleeding, chronic constipation and chronic diarrhoea or to examine the lining of the colon and rectum and the presence of polyps to screen for rectal or colon cancer. If abnormal tissues or non-cancerous growths are present, your gastroenterologist may take a sample of these tissues during your colonoscopy.

What does the procedure involve?

Being a non-surgical procedure, a colonoscopy is usually done in theatre or day theatre on an outpatient basis. Prior to the procedure, you will be instructed to refrain from eating for at least 24 hours. You will be given a laxative to flush out your colon for the procedure.

While conscious for the procedure, you will be given a sedative. You should only experience mild discomfort for 20 – 30 minutes. Lying on your side, a thin endoscope tube is slowly inserted into your anus. From there the endoscope fitted with a camera will move through the rectum and colon allowing your gastroenterologist to view an internal video of the intestinal tract. Dr Mbao may pump air into the endoscope to inflate the rectum, colon and duodenum. This is done to get a clearer view of the lining and surrounding tissues so that abnormalities can be easily viewed and an accurate diagnosis can be made. In suitable cases, he may also be able to take a sample of abnormal tissues so that they may be tested. Afterwards, you will need to wait for the sedative to wear off before you may be discharged. Mild bloating, gas and cramping are to be expected.