Colonoscopies Save Lives

Colonoscopy is a common test that allows your physician to look inside your entire large intestine, from the rectum to lower end of the small intestine. This procedure is used to detect possible ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding as well as to diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits. A colonoscopy can catch early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum, making it an extremely important screening procedure.

Thanks to improvements in both screening and treatment, the death rate associated with colorectal cancer has dropped. There are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the U.S. today.

Read more about the quality and care at DHS: Colonoscopy Quality Data (PDF)

The Procedure

  • Prior to the procedure the anesthesia provider will administer sedation to minimize discomfort
  • During the colonoscopy, your physician will insert a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope into the rectum and slowly guide it through the colon
  • A small video camera is attached to the colonoscope, which transmits images of the inside of your colon onto a monitor, allowing the physician to carefully examine the colon lining
  • You will start the procedure on your left side and may be asked to occasionally change position to provide complete exposure of the entire colon
  • Air may also be inserted through the colonoscope, which opens the folds of the colon to allow for better visibility
  • If your physician finds anything unusual in the colon, such as a polyp or inflamed tissue, a biopsy will be performed to remove a small piece of the affected area which is then sent to the lab for testing
  • If there is bleeding in the colon, your physician can inject special medicines or pass a heater or electrical probe through the scope to stop the blood loss
  • Bleeding and puncture of the colon are possible complications of a colonoscopy, however these complications are uncommon


The procedure can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Preparing For Your Appointment

For a complete and thorough examination of the colon, it is very important that the colon is completely empty prior to colonoscopy. Visit our partner, Your Patient Advisor (formerly Colon Prep Center), to order everything you need for successful preparation.

Please refer to the preparation instructions provided, or see below in case of lost instructions:



After checking in with the receptionist, you will be guided to your exam room and asked to change into a patient gown. A nurse will discuss your medical history, take your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and will insert an IV (intravenous catheter) in your arm to deliver medication. Please let the nurse know of any medication allergies you may have, as well as who will be driving you home after your procedure. Before the procedure itself, you will be asked to sign a consent form authorizing the physician to perform the exam.

Your physician will explain each step of the procedure to you. Before inserting the colonoscope, the physician will examine the rectum with a gloved, lubricated finger.

After Your Appointment

After the procedure is complete, you will be closely observed by our nurses until you are awake. Abdominal bloating may still be present, but will dissipate as the trapped air is expelled. Many people do not recall any part of the procedure because of the sedative medication. Before leaving, your physician will speak with you about the procedure and make you aware of any significant, initial findings. Once the nurses have assessed your condition and decide you are ready to leave, you will be released to your designated transportation person.

You may eat and resume normal activities as soon as you feel able, unless otherwise instructed. If uncomfortable gas remains, try walking, taking a warm bath, drinking warm fluids or lying on your left side with knees drawn up to help pass any air trapped in your colon.

It is extremely important that you do not:

  • Drive or operate mechanical equipment until the next day
  • Drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after your procedure


Your physician will discuss any preliminary findings with you once you are awake, and a full report will be sent to your personal physician.

Biopsy and polyp results are usually available in 7-10 business days. You can expect to receive a phone call or postcard with your results, and a report will be sent to your personal physician.