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Virtual Colonoscopy

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Uploaded on Mar 31, 2011

Provided by Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Berkeley and Oakland, CA

Virtual colonoscopy combines CT scans with sophisticated computer software to produce three-dimensional images of the colon and rectum. The test is less invasive than a conventional colonoscopy.

Risk of the examination is very low and it is well tolerated. The important point is that at a certain age everyone needs to have colon cancer screening in order to identify potential tumors that can be very difficult to treat and to reach such tumors before a more threatening condition arises. This identification can be achieved by virtual colonoscopy or optical colonoscopy. Risk of the examination is very low and it is well tolerated.

Generally this technique is used to screen asymptomatic patients for potential malignancies as mammography is used for the breast...

There is the need to cleanse the bowel to get a clear look at its lining from which cancers arise. Without this precancerous or small cancerous growths may be obscured. The preparation is neither as vigorous nor voluminous as that, which is needed for direct optical colonoscopy. In addition, sedation is not required. The patient can generally immediately resume usual activities.

The examination employs distention of the colon with CO2, which is rapidly absorbed unlike the room air used to distend the colon for optical colonoscopy.

Following distention of the colon with the gas on the scanning table, two low radiation dose thin CT images of the abdomen are obtained. The images require about 15-20 seconds each. The patient is then discharged to go about the day.

Virtual colonoscopies have been shown to have equivalent ability to optical colonoscopies to detect significant growths with potential for malignancy. Very small growths have virtually no potential for cancer. This technique also has the advantage that it can "see" behind the normal folds in the colon lining that may not be able to be visualized by optical colonoscopy.

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