A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure used to examine the colon, also called the large intestine or bowel. The colon and rectum form the last part of the body’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A doctor who specializes in digestive diseases uses a long, narrow, flexible tube to examine the colon for irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, and polyps (potentially cancerous tissue on the lining of the intestine). The tube (colonoscope) includes a light and a camera, as well as tools that can be used to remove polyps. A colonoscopy can help diagnose reasons for changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the rectum, and weight loss. It also is a screening test for colon cancer in the hopes of finding the disease at an early stage. The day before the procedure, the patient follows bowel preparation instructions at home so that little to no stool is present in the intestine for the colonoscopy.  This allows for a more complete examination of the intestine. A gastroenterologist performs the colonoscopy at a hospital or outpatient center. Light anesthesia and pain medication relax the patient for the test. Another type of colonoscopy, called virtual colonoscopy, uses CT scans and computer technology to create images of the lining of the colon.

UAB Medicine is known worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our gastroenterology and gastrointestinal (GI) program is consistently ranked among the top programs of its kind in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We see more than 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures each year.

Our specialty at UAB has a notable history. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, MD, founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized GI and other diagnoses around the world and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest in the country and has grown to become one of the most prestigious, both clinically and academically.

UAB continues to lead advancements in gastroenterology by participating in many research trials of promising drug therapies and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our physicians and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many GI illnesses through basic research, including studies of the bacteria that inhabit our intestines and affect our health.

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