Introduction to Virtual Colonoscopy
Virtual colonoscopy is a procedure performed to find any signs of pre-cancerous growths such as polyps, cancers and many other illnesses of the large intestine. The procedure is done with the assistance of computerized tomography (CT). Virtual colonoscopy allows insight and visualization of the inside of the large intestine. Obtained images are put together by a computer and this way an animated, three-dimensional view of the inside of the large intestine is obtained.
Virtual colonoscopy is actually the latest screening tool for colon cancer. It is different from traditional colonoscopy. Namely, in case of virtual colonoscopy the doctor may also detect conditions outside the colon while traditional colonoscopy only allows visualization of the inside of the colon. On, the other hand in traditional colonoscopy a doctor may remove the suspicious lesion during the examination while virtual colonoscopy does not allow any manipulation during the procedure. And finally, virtual colonoscopy is much more comfortable since it does not include insertion of a long, flexible colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is inserted in case of traditional colonoscopy and is very uncomfortable and makes the examination rather unpleasant.
It is estimated that colorectal cancer represents the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the USA. So it is recommendable for all people above the age of 50 to undergo this specific colon screening procedure. If the tumor is diagnosed in early stages, it is treatable. This is why virtual colonoscopy may improve survival rates when it comes to colon cancer.
Virtual Colonoscopy - the Very Procedure
Virtual colonoscopy does not last long. It is performed within several minutes and the patients do not need to be sedated.
Prior the procedure the patient needs to be prepared. This particularly refers to bowel preparation. Namely, the patient's gastrointestinal track must be emptied of all solids. This can be perfectly achieved by a clear fluid diet. The diet lasts at least three days prior the procedure. Proper cleaning of the gastrointestinal tract is also obtained with laxatives which are given the night before colonoscopy.
Suitable visualization of the bowel requires previous inflation of the colon with carbon dioxide. Once the colon is filled with carbon dioxide the patient may undergo scanning. The doctor takes two CT scans. During the first one the patients is lying on the back and the second scan includes lying of the patients on the stomach. It is essential that patient does not move during scanning and he/ she is instructed to hold breath during the actual scanning which lasts approximately 15 seconds. After the scanning is completed patients are removed from the scan, they get dressed, the images are transferred to a special computer and they are ready to be interpreted.