When a person eats, they usually do not place much emphasis on what happens to the food after they swallow it. Most people know, however, that once the food is swallowed, it is broken down in the stomach and then digested by the large and small intestine. The small intestine, also known as the colon, is an area that people need to pay particular attention to as they get older.
One way that the colon can be checked for irregularities, such as cancerous polyps, is through a procedure that is known as a virtual colonoscopy. Upon hearing that phrase, many people end up thinking about the cousin to this procedure, the original colonoscopy, with a shudder.
This is because the original colonoscopy involves a procedure that is very invasive, so invasive that some people have tried to avoid having their colon checked. The original procedure involves a patient being mildly sedated and a long tube (attached to a camera) being placed up the colon via the rectum. Needless to say, this could lead to internal bleeding, especially in cases involving delicate elderly people.
A virtual colonoscopy, however, is a minimally invasive procedure. The only thing that is similar between the two procedures is how the patient will need to prepare. In order to obtain the best possible results, the colon must be completely cleansed. This means that the patient must only eat certain foods in the days leading up to the procedure. Additionally, the night before the procedure the patient will have to drink a special drink that is formulated to clear out any other food particles that might be left over.
So, how do the certain foods that a person eats affect the overall health of the colon? Ideally, it is very important for a person to have a considerable amount of fiber in their diet so that all the food, once properly digested, is safely eliminated from the body. However, people who have a tendency to eat a lot of meat or unprocessed foods (like white bread and starches) keep that food in their colon for a lot longer than is healthy.
The virtual colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure, which means that no hospital stay is required. The patient is usually able to wear his or her own clothing during the procedure, provided that it is free of any metal. Metal throws off the efficiency of the scanning machines. Next, a small plastic tube is inserted only about two inches into the rectum. Air is blown through the tube in order to eliminate any tissue folds that might be present in the colon, and the scan begins.
During the virtual colonoscopy scan itself, it is important that the patient remain as still as possible. The patient will most likely be given a pillow to make him or her more comfortable. The scan images are transmitted to a computer software program, which allows the doctor to see a three dimension representation of the colon. The procedure itself takes about fifteen minutes, after which time most patients can resume usual activities.