Like a traditional colonoscopy procedure, virtual colonoscopy allows doctors to view the large intestine and find pre-cancerous and cancerous growths and other diseases. During a virtual colonoscopy, a thin tube is inserted into the rectum instead of the traditional colonoscope. Using computerized tomography (CT scan), the doctor can then view detailed, 3-D images of the large intestine. Due in part to the fact that they are not as effective as the more traditional alternative, the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence does not offer virtual colonoscopies.

Colon cancer screenings are still very important. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 50,000 people will die from colon cancer in 2012 alone. Fortunately, colon cancer is incredibly treatable, provided it is detected early. That’s why the board-certified GI team at the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence recommends regular screenings to protect your colorectal health. As you can tell, preventing the disease is still as important as ever.

Preparing for a Virtual Colonoscopy

Similar to a conventional colonoscopy, you will probably be required to adhere to a clear liquid diet one to three days prior to the procedure. Most likely, your doctor will instruct you to take a laxative the night before your virtual colonoscopy to ensure that the colon is clean. On the day of your virtual colonoscopy, you will also drink a contrast media liquid, which helps doctors see the large intestine and detect abnormal tissue during the CT scan.

Description of the Procedure

During a virtual colonoscopy, you will lie face-up on a table. As the table moves through the CT scanner, the computer will take a series of cross-sectional pictures of the colon. The doctor may ask you to hold your breath at some point, so the camera can get a steady image. Once this part of the procedure is complete, you will lie facedown while more pictures are taken.

You can expect your virtual colonoscopy to last about ten minutes. Unlike with a traditional colonoscopy screening, you will not need to be sedated during the procedure. When the procedure is done, an experienced radiologist will review your results.

Virtual Colonoscopy FAQ’s

What are the advantages of Virtual Colonoscopy?

Unlike with traditional colonoscopy, patients need not undergo sedation for a virtual colonoscopy. They can drive themselves to and from the procedure and return to work or other activities the same day. Many patients will appreciate the fact that the virtual colonoscopy is less invasive, as the tube inserted into the rectum is smaller and thinner than the traditional colonoscope. A virtual colonoscopy will also take less time than a conventional colonoscopy procedure.

What are the disadvantages of Virtual Colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopies have radiation exposure, so that is a concern. Also smaller polyps can be missed. If something is found, then you will need a colonoscopy to remove it, amounting to two procedures and higher costs. Virtual CT scans sometimes find abnormal appearing lesions in other organs, which sometimes require surgery for further exploration. Some of these abnormal findings are found to be normal once surgery is performed, therefore patients may wind up needing an unnecessary surgery.

In brief, virtual colonoscopy is generally reserved for patients who are too ill to undergo anesthesia that is necessary to perform a traditional colonoscopy.

If you would like to schedule a traditional colonoscopy, or if you’re concerned about your colorectal health, don’t hesitate to contact the GI team at the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence at La Peer by calling (310) 360-9119.