Virtual colonoscopy is a procedure involving the detection of pre-cancerous growth like polyps, cancerous cells, tumors, etc. This technique differs from the conventional colonoscopy procedure …
Virtual colonoscopy is the latest colon cancer screening tool. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society suggests that all men and women above the age of 50 should undergo this colon cancer screening procedure.
Colon cancer is treatable in its early stages, and oncologists say that the virtual scan may improve the survival rates in America. In this procedure, an advanced multi-detector spiral CT (computerized tomography) scanner is used to generate 2-D and 3-D images of the colon and other organs in the pelvis and abdominal region.
Virtual Vs. Traditional Colonoscopy
Virtual colonoscopy differs from traditional colonoscopy in various ways. In the virtual type, various unsuspected conditions and diseases outside the colon can be detected, which is not possible in the traditional one because it only detects abnormalities pertaining to the colon. However, unlike the traditional type, virtual colonoscopy can only detect a polyp (pre-cancerous growths), and cannot be used to remove them. Polyps left undiagnosed can result in cancer, thus their early detection and removal is crucial.
The traditional colonoscopy procedure comprises a catheter and camera, which is inserted through the anal cavity. However, the virtual procedure does not require this cumbersome process, although it does require the same bowel cleansing procedure to be carried out. Virtual colonoscopy takes only minutes to complete and sedation is not needed. Moreover, the traditional method involves the use of a long, flexible, light tube called a colonoscope to view the colon’s interior. However, the virtual method involves the use of CT or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to view the inside of the colon. Thus, this new technology may encourage more people to take the test.
Procedure of Virtual Colonoscopy
Prior to the commencement of the procedure, the patient will have to undergo bowel preparation. Bowel preparation involves the emptying of the gastro-intestinal tract of all possible solids. This is done by maintaining a clear fluid diet for 1-3 days before the procedure. Laxatives, in the form of pills are also given to prepare the bowel, the night before the procedure. These laxatives loosen the stool and increase bowel movements. Once bowel preparation has been done, the actual procedure starts.
On the day of the procedure, the patient’s colon is empty because as a result of bowel cleansing. As an empty colon usually collapses, the colon is inflated with carbon dioxide or room air. Inflation is necessary for the inner colon walls to be visible for examination. A small tube is inserted through the patient’s rectum, by which the air is filled into the colon. The patient will experience some pressure or fullness, however, no pain.
Once the colon has been inflated, the patient is ready for a scan. Generally, two CT scans are taken, wherein one scan is done while lying on the back, and the other while lying on the stomach. Scans while lying sideways may also be taken. The scans usually take less than a minute. When the patient is moved into the scanner, he is instructed by the CT technologist to hold still. The arms of the patient are positioned above the head, to ensure they don’t come in the way. The patient will also be told to hold his or her breath during the actual scan time (15 seconds), so as to avoid blurred images.
When the scan has been completed, the patient is removed from the scanner and allowed to leave the scanning room. While the patient gets dressed, the images are transferred to the Viatronix V3D Computer (technologically innovative diagnostic imaging device) for interpretation. By the time the patient gets dressed and goes back to the waiting room, the report is ready to be examined by the physician. In case any polyps are detected from the report, the physician will direct the patient to go in for a conventional colonoscopy procedure for their removal. This can be done the same day or may be scheduled some other day.
According to researchers, virtual colonoscopy is able to detect tumors of 10 millimeters and larger, 90% of the time. Thus, this is promising news for the field of colon cancer research and prevention.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.