Virtual Colonoscopy, also referred to as computerized tomography colonography, is an outpatient procedure that utilizes computer technology along with x-rays to provide images of the entire colon. These 3D images have been able to identify 85% of suspicious colon growths in patients with a risk for colorectal cancer. While this type of procedure is not recommended for those who have a high risk of colorectal cancer or a family history of the disease, it is a less invasive way to perform routine colonoscopies. The procedure can be performed at an outpatient facility by a radiologist and does not require any anesthetic. Below you will find out what to expect from a routine virtual colonoscopy procedure.
What is the preparation?
Preparation for the virtual colonoscopy is the same for the patient as a routine colonoscopy and will require fasting and the use of medication to clean out your digestive system. This usually will include prescription laxatives and suppositories. Preparation is important, because if there is any fecal matter left in the rectum or colon, a false positive may occur.
What goes on during the procedure?
The overall duration of the procedure is approximately 10 to 15 minutes and will require no recovery time after the procedure is completed. When you begin your procedure you will be gowned and asked to lie down on an examination table. The technician may give you intravenous medication to limit the muscle movement in the area being viewed.
Next a thin tube, or catheter, will be inserted into your rectum. The catheter will then be inflated using either air or carbon dioxide to help fill up the area. This will enable the radiologist to get better imaging results and a clearer picture. At this point, you may feel pressure or fullness in your abdomen but it should not be too uncomfortable.
You will then be placed on your back and the examination table will move into computed tomography, or CT machine, where your body will be scanned and pictures will be taken. While you are in the scanner you may be asked to turn to the side, change positions, or hold your breath for periods of time. As the scan goes on it will be taking two-dimensional pictures of the cross-section of your colon. The computer software will then combine these images to produce a 3D picture on the technician’s screen. If the technician needs more contrast you may be given an intravenous dye agent to help produce clearer images.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, you may feel the need to pass gas or feel bloated for a few hours. Walking will help alleviate this discomfort and aid in the gas’s release. As there is no sedation with this procedure you will be able to return to a normal diet and physical activity as soon as it is completed. If there are suspicious growths detected on your scan that your doctor feels should be removed, you may be asked to proceed with a traditional colonoscopy immediately following. Since your body is already prepped for the procedure, you will not need to do anything else. If there are no urgent findings, your doctor will schedule to meet with you to go over the results.
If you have questions about virtual colonoscopy or are interested in learning more about it, contact your doctor today to see if a virtual colonoscopy procedure would be right for you.