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What is virtual colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy, also known as Computed Tomography (CT) colonography, CT colonoscopy, or CT pneumocolon, is a diagnostic technique that examines the large bowel (colon) and surrounding organs to detect irritated or swollen tissue, lesions, ulcers or growths such as polyps or tumours. The procedure is less invasive than a conventional colonoscopy and is performed as an outpatient examination.

Is a virtual colonoscopy right for me?

A virtual colonoscopy can be used to help diagnose health conditions such as bowel cancer, which is the third most common cancer in men and second most common cancer in women in the UK. Early detection is key, as there is a good chance that bowel cancer can be cured if diagnosed and treated early. With virtual colonoscopy, the radiologist also gains information about the other organs inside your abdomen, which cannot be done with a convention colonoscopy.

What happens during a virtual colonoscopy?

Before a virtual colonoscopy

You will need to follow a special diet and take laxatives provided by the Hospital in order to prepare for your scan. This is to ensure the radiologist can visualise the inside of your bowel as clearly as possible. You will be asked to arrive early for your scan to have a drink of some x-ray dye called contrast which helps provide more information.

During a virtual colonoscopy

The scan usually takes about 10-15 minutes but will be longer if you are having a scan with contrast media. The Radiographer will pass a thin, flexible tube into your rectum and pump air into your bowel. This might be slightly uncomfortable or cause cramping but shouldn’t be painful. Scans will be taken while you are lying on your back and then while on your front, and you will need to lie very still throughout. You may be asked to hold your breath for up to 15 seconds at certain points during the scan.

After the virtual colonoscopy

The Radiographer who performs the scan will ensure all the images have been taken and are prepared for review by the Radiologist, who will then send a report to your referring consultant. The time it takes for this to happen varies but is usually done in less than a week. You will be encouraged to drink extra fluids following your scan if you had contrast. Otherwise, you can eat and drink as normal and it will be safe to drive and return to work right away.

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