Colonoscopy Testing for Diverticulosis PDF Print E-mail

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A colonoscopy is an internal examination of the entire length of the colon (large intestine), using an instrument called a colonoscope which is a small camera that attaches to a flexible tube.

Test Description
A colonoscopy is generally performed as an outpatient procedure and thank goodness you will receive a sedative and pain reliever.  The majority of all people are very drowsy and sleep during the procedure, generally not remembering anything.  You will  lie on your left side in a curled up position with your knees drawn up toward your chest. Once in the correct position the colonoscope will be inserted through the anus and gently directed through the entire length of the colon to allow the doctor to inspect the colon through the lense of the camera.  Pictures are also taken of any suspicious areas.

To provide a clearer view air will also be inserted through the colonoscope.  If there are any secretions a suction may be used to remove them. The majority of the time a more accurate examination actually happens while the scope is being withdrawn. 

Unlike the sigmoidoscopy, which examines only the lower third of the colon, a colonoscopy can examine the full length of the colon.

Test Preparation
A complete cleaning of the bowel is of utmost importance for a clear picture.  You will instructed by your health care providers on how they want you to go about this.  This cleansing will possibly include:

  • The use of enemas (stay as close to a bathroom as possible, going out for a walk is not suggested)
  • No solid foods for 2 – 3 days prior to the test
  • Laxatives
  • Aspirin or blood thinning medications may need to stop 4 – 5 days prior to test.
  • Drinking lots of clear liquids (water, juice, broths, Jello)
  • No Iron supplements for at least a couple of weeks prior, the residues will darken stools and make the inside of the bowel harder to see.
  • Some people may receive antibiotics before and after testing to help prevent infection.

What to Expect During the Exam
Not to much if the sedatives and pain relievers work right.  You will be in a very relaxed state,the majority are asleep.   The doctor will usually perform a digital rectal examination prior to the test to help dilate the rectum and make sure there are no obstructions. You may have a sudden urge to have to defecate when the rectal exam is performed or when the colonoscope is inserted.

As the scope is gently inserted you may feel slight pressure inside, mild cramping and even gas pains as air is introduced. The passing of gas may be necessary and is expected.  There is no need for embarrassment; these are professionals that do this every day.

You can ease your discomfort by taking slow, deep breaths and go to your happy place. This will also help relax the abdominal muscles.

After the exam you may experience some mild abdominal cramping, and a bit of gas will be passing through.  The sedation will generally wear off in a few hours, and with any luck you may not have any discomfort or memory of the test.

Purpose of Test
The test is performed to examine the lower intestine for diverticula, fistulas, perforated tears, various abdominal conditions, polyps, collection of tissue samples for biopsies, various cancers or tumors, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

If there is the likeliness of a diverticulitis infection the test will be postponed until an antibiotic treatment has cleared the infection and inflammation.
It is strongly recommended that a colonoscopy becomes a routine exam for everyone over 50.

Test Results
          Healthy clear intestinal tissues.
          The tissues are considered abnormal if diverticula pouches are found in the intestinal lining, any source
          of bleeding, polyps (which can be removed during the procedure, tumors, or inflammatory bowel disease.


  • Infection requiring antibiotics  (very rare)
  • Vomiting, nausea, bloating caused by oral medications.
  • Rectal irritations caused by oral colon cleanse medication.
  • Tear of hole in the wall of the colon, repaired by operation. (less than 1 out of 1,000)
  • Persistent or heavy bleeding from polyp removal or biopsy location. (1 out of 1,000)
  • Reaction to sedative medications, resulting in low blood pressure, or breathing problems (4 our of 10,000)
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