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What is a colonoscopy?


Colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the large intestine performed by our gastroenterologists at Southwest Endoscopy. Your gastroenterologists will guide a colonoscope (a long, thin, flexible tube containing a tiny video camera) from the anus to the cecum and into the distal part of the small intestine the terminal ileum. During your colonoscopy, images from the camera are display in real-time on a monitor, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the bowel. Biopsies are usually taken during this procedure, and the procedure itself takes about 30 minutes.  

Colonoscopy advised for patients with a wide array of gastrointestinal symptoms including  diarrhea, rectal bleeding, constipation, lost of appetite, sudden weight lost, as well as many other symptoms as part of a complete evaluation for a proper diagnosis.

Superior Adenoma Detection Rates.

The purpose of a colonoscopy is to find colon cancer early enough to be able to cure it. We have also learned that every colon cancer starts as a pre-cancerous colon polyp, called adenoma and that by removing adenomas, colon cancer can even be prevented. 
Gastroenterologists developed a tool to measure the quality of a colonoscopy to be certain that individual gastroenterologists are doing a good job of finding adenomas. This quality measure is called "adenoma detection rate (ADR)" and measures how often gastroenterologists find adenomas in the patients on whom they perform a colonoscopy.  

Studies have found that when gastroenterologists have a high ADR, it is unlikely that their patients will develop colon cancer after a colonoscopy. However, if gastroenterologists have a low ADR, it is possible that their patients may develop colon cancer after a colonoscopy because the gastroenterologist may have missed some adenomas. 
The national overall ADR benchmark goal is ≥25% for mixed sex populations. This means that it was expected that at least 25% of people will have an adenoma found during their colonoscopy. These numbers can vary within the 25% between men and women. More specifically, the benchmark is 20% for women and 30% for men. 
Southwest Gastroenterology collects and reports data on our Adenoma Detection Rate to benchmark both locally and nationally. In 2020, we proudly reported that 48% of women and 59% of men had adenomas found during their colonoscopy. We are well above the national average for adenoma detection. While we like to think this means that we are doing an excellent job of finding pre-cancerous polyps, it also may mean that people in our community are at an increased risk of developing pre-cancerous polyps. 
If you have not had a screening colonoscopy, or if you are due for your repeat colonoscopy, please call our office to schedule your appointment at (505) 999-1600.

What are polyps?

The most common reason for having a colonoscopy is to detect and remove polyps. Polyps are small mushroom- like growths of the colon lining. They are significant because almost all colon cancers start off as polyps, and having polyps removed can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Most, but not all, polyps can be removed at the time of colonoscopy. No one knows exactly what causes polyps to grow. It is not thought to be significantly related to diet or other environmental factors, and mostly reflects genetic susceptibility and the effects of aging.

If the doctor removes polyps, they will be sent to the lab where a pathologist will examine them under the microscope. Your doctor will then send you a letter or call you regarding the results of this pathology exam.

Will I feel anything?

Some patients experience some crampy abdominal pain caused by advancement of the scope around turns in the colon, but this is minimized by the sedation you will receive. 

Can I go back to work after my procedure?

Due to the sedation given during the procedure, you should plan to rest at home for the remainder of the day. You may resume your usual activities the day after your procedure.

Why is it so important to follow your prep instructions?

The cleaner your colon is, the safer and more complete your exam. If your colon is not well cleaned out, your doctor may have to qualify your results by saying, “Well, I didn’t see any polyps, but I couldn’t see every surface”. If your prep is unsatisfactory, your doctor may recommend you reschedule another colonoscopy (with another prep). It is in your best interest to follow your prep instructions.

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