Virtual colonoscopy combines sophisticated X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans of the abdomen to produce a two- and three-dimensional computer model of the patient’s colon. If precancerous or cancerous lesions or polyps are detected, a traditional colonoscopy is generally required.
Why choose virtual colonoscopy
Virtual colonoscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure that involves no sedation and no post-procedure recovery. Patients can resume normal activities immediately following the procedure, so there is no delay in returning to work or driving. In contrast, a traditional optical colonoscopy may require 30 minutes of recovery time and additional restrictions on driving. With optical colonoscopy, there is a very low risk of complications such as abdominal bleeding or bowel perforation. This risk is even lower with the virtual colonoscopy exam.
Studies show that both virtual and optical colonoscopy reduce the rate of colon cancer.
What to expect during a virtual colonoscopy
A virtual colonoscopy requires a colon cleansing done by the patient the day before the exam. This includes a special diet and laxative. On the day of the exam, the patient may also drink special liquids which help identify colon abnormalities.
During a virtual colonoscopy, a small tube is inserted into the rectum to fill the colon with air or carbon dioxide to provide clear images. This may cause minimal, brief discomfort in the abdomen. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes.
If polyps are found during the virtual colonoscopy, a follow up procedure is required to remove the polyp using the traditional optical colonoscopy. If scheduled in advance, the patient will have the option to receive the optical colonoscopy on the same day, immediately following the virtual colonoscopy, thus avoiding another fasting and colon cleansing cycle.