By name alone, “virtual colonoscopy” might give the impression that it is a less complicated medical procedure than its traditional counterpart, but, this isn’t the case. Preparation for a virtual colonoscopy not only requires the same amount of preparation and cleansing ritual as the standard procedure, but it can only be performed at a hospital or medical center. Additionally, the procedure is sufficiently new in the medical field and has not yet proven its effectiveness as an option to traditional colonoscopies.

Research supports the standard colonoscopy as the optimal screening procedure for colon cancer and diagnostic tool for intestinal health. The specialists at Los Angeles-based Colonoscopy Center of Excellence choose the traditional procedure for its proven effectiveness in both detecting and treating ulcers, polyps, tumors  and any inflammation or bleeding.

What Happens During A Virtual Colonoscopy?

Cleansing the intestinal system can’t be avoided even with a virtual colonoscopy. The day before the procedure, the colon must be cleared of any obstructions and a liquid diet maintained for 24 hours. Since the procedure is still relatively new and requires special equipment, few medical facilities offer it, and for now, virtual colonoscopies are only conducted in the radiology department of a hospital or medical center.

In a traditional colonoscopy, a doctor uses a colonoscope to view the large intestines. The virtual version replaces the colonoscope with a CT scan, which takes only a visual image of the colon versus a “live” view.

To get a good scans of the colon, air is injected into the colon through a thin tube inserted into the rectum. This can result in the patient feeling some discomfort as the air (or gas) expands the colon. As the CT scan or MRI takes pictures, the patient must remain still and hold his or her breath. The process is repeated until all the required images are taken which takes about 10 minutes. In addition, patients are exposed to x-ray radiation during a CT scan.

Virtual Colonoscopy Limitations

One of the greatest drawbacks to a virtual colonoscopy is its inability to detect small polyps. Other limitations to the procedure include:

  • Cannot detect flat lesions
  • Cannot remove polyps
  • Cannot diagnose polyps
  • Emits a moderate amount of radiation

As a newer procedure, the virtual exam is not covered by most insurance plans and only a limited number of facilities conduct the exam. Should any polyps be found during the virtual colonoscopy procedure, then a schedule will need to be made for a conventional colonoscopy with another round of bowel prep to remove the polyp.

Contact the Colonoscopy Specialists

When it’s time for a colonoscopy, you want to consult with specialists who are trained in the most technologically advanced procedures. We have a world-class team of gastroenterologists with extensive experience in colorectal diagnosis and treatment and a compassionate staff ready to assist you with your questions or schedule a consultation. Contact the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence today at 888-837-0459 to schedule your consultation or to answer any questions that you might have about the procedure.