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How Long is a Colonoscopy Procedure?

author image Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.
How Long is a Colonoscopy Procedure?
Surgeon consulting a patient. Photo Credit: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

The preparation

The colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a physician to see inside the colon and rectum. A tube with a tiny camera on it is inserted inside the body to give the physician access to that area. In order to enable a clear picture, the patient must prepare himself for the procedure by going on a clear liquid diet for 24 to 48 hours beforehand. The patient may only ingest water, plain tea, plain coffee, strained fruit juices, sports drinks and fat-free broth. Additionally, the patient will often be required to take a laxative the night before the procedure and then an enema to eliminate any obstructions.

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The procedure

The colonoscopy takes about 30 to 60 minutes, under most circumstances. The physician inserts a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope into the patient's anus and rectum and through the colon. In addition to providing an image of the interior, the scope can also inflate the area with carbon dioxide in order to remove obscurities that prevent viewing. With the colonoscope, the doctor can also remove pre-cancerous polyps and take biopsies.

After the procedure is completed, the patient will stay about one to two hours at the facility to recover.

Age and frequency

Once someone reaches the age of 50, she should undergo a colonoscopy every 12 to 18 months. If there is any history of polyps or cancerous conditions in your family, the procedure should begin much earlier, perhaps at age 35 or 40.

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