What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of the large bowel (colon) using a flexible telescope.
What are the benefits of a colonoscopy?
If the endoscopist finds a problem, they can perform biopsies to help make the diagnosis.
Sometimes a polyp is the cause of the problem and the endoscopist may be able to remove it during the procedure.
Are there any alternatives to a colonoscopy?
Other options include a contrast enema (an x-ray which takes pictures of the large bowel) or CT colography (a CT scan of the large bowel). However, these procedures have a higher risk of radiation exposure (the extra risk of developing cancer over a lifetime), and your child may still need a colonoscopy to treat the problem or perform biopsies.
What does the procedure involve?
The procedure is usually performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.
The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope into your child's back passage. Air will be blown into their large bowel to help the endoscopist have a clear view.
The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. They will be able to perform biopsies and take photographs to help make the diagnosis. If they find a polyp, it may be possible to remove it during the procedure.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- making a hole in the colon
- bleeding from a biopsy site or from minor damage caused by the telescope
- bleeding, if a polyp is removed
- missed polyp
- incomplete examination
How soon will my child recover?
The healthcare team will tell you what was found during the colonoscopy and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up that your child needs. Results from biopsies will not be available for a few days so the healthcare team may arrange for you to come back to the clinic for these results.
Once at home, if your child has pain, bleeding or a high temperature, contact the endoscopy unit or your GP.
A colonoscopy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out if your child has a problem with their large bowel.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2022