More Info: Virtual Colonoscopy

Important Facts About This Test

  • Compared to traditional colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy has the second-highest level of accuracy for finding cancers and polyps.
  • If the results of this test are abnormal, you would need to have a colonoscopy.
  • There is a very small risk of tearing the bowel (perforation), which happens in about one in every 20,000 patients who take the test. There may also be long-term harmful effects from radiation exposure, especially with repeated testing. Because the test can identify abnormalities outside of the colon, additional diagnostic tests may be required for findings that may or may not be important to your health.
  • A virtual colonoscopy needs to be done once every 5 years.
  • Compared to colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy is the second most costly screening test. It is not covered by Medicare or most insurers.

Getting Ready

  • You must follow a clear liquid diet the day before the test. 
  • You must take a strong laxative in liquid and/or pill form on the evening before the test.
  • You may be asked to drink a liquid called contrast media, which helps the doctor see abnormal growths on the scan.

During the Test

  • The test is done in a hospital or specialized medical center.
  • You lie on a table that moves back and forth through a CT scanning machine.
  • Air may be put into the rectum to help doctors see any abnormal growths. 
  • The test itself takes less than 15 minutes to complete but the entire process may take 2-3 hours..

After the Test

  • The test may cause some temporary bloating afterward.
  • You can return to your normal activities after the test is over.

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