Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation are very important to both you and your care team. You may feel pressure, abdominal fullness, or brief cramping when air is pumped into the colon. Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax, but if any discomfort does not pass quickly, tell a member of your care team.

What are the risks and potential complications of a virtual colonoscopy?  

Complications after a virtual colonoscopy are not common. However, any procedure involves risks and the possibility of complications that may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during or after the procedure and include: 

  • Dehydration due to taking enemas and laxatives before the procedure
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea, vomiting, and rectal discomfort
  • Perforation of the colon (rare)
  • Small risk of cancer due to radiation exposure. Your radiology team follows strict standards for X-ray techniques and will use the lowest amount of radiation possible to produce the best images. Your doctor will generally not order an X-ray procedure if you are pregnant due to danger of radiation to an unborn child. 

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by: 

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your procedure and during recovery
  • Informing your radiologist if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as rectal bleeding or increase in pain
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed

How do I prepare for my virtual colonoscopy?

If you dread the thought of undergoing testing for colorectal cancer, you are not alone. You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your procedure can improve your comfort level and help your doctor obtain the most accurate results. You can prepare for a virtual colonoscopy by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Completely cleansing your intestines as directed by your doctor. This may include a combination of enemas, laxatives, and not eating solid foods for a day before the test.
  • Drinking plenty of clear fluids to be well hydrated 
  • Removing all jewelry and metal on the day of your test
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed

Questions to ask your doctor

Preparing for a virtual colonoscopy can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their concerns during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor with concerns and questions before the procedure. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointment. Common questions include:

  • Why do I need a virtual colonoscopy? Are there any other options for diagnosing or treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What kind of restrictions will I have after the procedure and when can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home? Will I need a ride home?
  • What medication plan should I follow before and after the procedure? 
  • How will my pain or discomfort be managed?
  • When should I follow up with you? 
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
  • When and how will I get the results of my test?

What can I expect after my virtual colonoscopy?

Knowing what to expect after a virtual colonoscopy can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible. 

How will I feel after the virtual colonoscopy?

You may have mild abdominal cramping and you may pass the gas that was inserted during the procedure. Take slow deep breaths to relax your abdominal muscles and reduce discomfort. You should not be in pain. Tell a member of your care team if you have discomfort that does not go away quickly or if you are in pain, because this may be a sign of a complication.