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What to Expect with Virtual Colonoscopy

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The Prep

Cleansing the bowel is very important to ensure the highest quality screening exam. After making an appointment for a virtual colonoscopy (VC) screening, you must purchase a VC prep kit. The prep kit may be picked up at the Center or shipped to you prior to your exam. Ideally, the prep should be reviewed one week prior to your study, although the major portion of the prep takes place in the 24 hours before the study. Our typical prep involves taking several small tablets, drinking two small bottles of lemon-flavored laxative and some oral contrast, and drinking lots of clear fluids. While no colon cleansing prep is fun, our prep is simple and not nearly as bad as many people think. And remember, it could save your life! Please refer to the VC Prep Instructions for details.

Arriving at the Center

Please arrive at the Colon Health Center at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled study. The receptionist will check you in, confirm your insurance status, and make sure you have signed a consent and privacy form. You will be shown into a private dressing room where you will be asked to put on a hospital gown. You will remain in the comfortable, private dressing room where you may watch the flat-panel TV, make cell phone calls, or access the internet from your laptop, until called for your study. The dressing room can be locked to protect your valuables.

The VC Exam

The study usually takes about 10-15 minutes. You will not need any sedation medicine or IV for this exam. When ready, the CT technician will bring you from the dressing room via a private hallway into the private VC room. Once on the CT table, the technician will need to insert a small (smaller than a straw), flexible tube one inch inside your rectum. This is not painful and is easier than the digital rectal exam you may have received during a physical exam.

This small tube is necessary for the following reason: The colon is a floppy tube and needs to be gently inflated in order to obtain the highest quality images. The tube is used to gently inflate the colon with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas to allow for better images. Occasionally patients will report a brief period of bloating, cramping, or feeling like they need to move their bowels. This is normal. If this sensation occurs, it is usually brief, mild, may respond to positioning, and will go away immediately after the test is over. After the test, most of the gas is absorbed immediately by the colon, but a small amount may pass through the rectum. Don't worry, this is not “your gas”, it is the odorless CO2 gas that we gave you!

You will then receive a quick overview scan, followed by two brief testing scans, one on your back and one on your stomach. You will be asked to hold your breath for about 10-15 seconds during each of these two passes. That's it; the VC exam is done!

After the VC Exam

You can expect to feel completely normal immediately after the exam. You will be taken back to your dressing room where you can get dressed in your street clothes.

About 10-20% of average risk patients will have polyps discovered on VC that should be removed. Therefore, most patients will want to wait the expected 45-60 minutes while their VC exam is read by the radiologist. If you have polyps, you will be given the opportunity to have the polyps removed that same day without needing a second prep. This is a major advantage of having the VC done at our Colon Health Center! A small number of patients will not be eligible to receive an outpatient colonoscopy the same day, either because of a medical condition or the need to remain on blood thinners, etc. These patients can be dismissed from the center after being advised on how to schedule a traditional colonoscopy at the hospital. The exam report will be sent to you and your physician.

If you wait for your results, there are several options for the expected 45-60 minute wait. You may wait in the comfortable waiting room or dressing room and watch TV, access our free Wi-Fi internet service, make cell phone calls (from private dressing rooms only), or read a newspaper or magazine, or you may provide a cell phone number where they can be reached, and leave to run errands, etc. for an hour.

You must not have any food, drink, gum, candy, or anything by mouth during this waiting time. Doing so could prevent you from receiving a colonoscopy that day, if you happened to need one. We will give you your results as soon as they return.

If your VC reading finds significant polyps (about 10-20% of patients), and you can safely undergo colonoscopy in an outpatient setting, you will be directed to the endoscopy center section of the Colon Health Center, about 1/3 mile away. Because of the sedation/anesthesia with colonoscopy, you will need to arrange for a ride home. This ride must be present before you can receive your colonoscopy.

If the VC results return with no significant findings (about 80-85% of patients), your screening is complete! You may drive yourself home, to work, etc. and resume all activities, including eating your normal diet.


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