Center for Digestive Diseases

UNM Hospitals Center
for Digestive Diseases

1001 Martin Luther King Ave. NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106

(505)272-2530 or

UNMH: (505)272-6839
CDD: (505)925-7849


What is colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of your colon (large intestine) for abnormalities by inserting a thin flexible tube with a light and camera into your rectum.

What preparation is required?

Your doctor has recommended a bowel cleansing preparation to use in order for your colon to be clean enough for a good examination. Preparation instruction sheets are available below.  Please follow these instructions carefully. Proper cleaning of the colon is important because if the doctor cannot see the lining of the colon well, he or she may recommend to repeat the procedure.  The bowel cleansing instruction below outline the recommended dietary restrictions to follow for the three days before your procedure.  If you have any questions about the bowel cleansing preparation or the dietary recommendations, please call our endoscopy center at 505-925-6000.

Procedure Preparation Instructions

Can I take my current medications?

Most medications can be continued as usual, but some medications should be stopped. The bowel cleansing instruction link above include a list of medications that should be stopped prior to your procedure. If there are any medications that you are not sure about taking, please consult your doctor, or call our endoscopy center at 505-925-6000.

What happens during colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that is well tolerated and rarely causes much pain. You will receive intravenous sedation to help you relax and make you comfortable during the procedure.  A registered nurse will monitor you for safety during the entire procedure.  You will lie on your side while the doctor slowly advances the flexible colonoscope through your colon. The doctor will examine the lining again as he or she slowly withdraws the colonoscope. The procedure itself usually takes approximately 30 minutes, although you should plan to be at our endoscopy center for approximately three hours. This will include the registration, preparation, procedure and recovery.

What are polyps and why are they removed?

Polyps are abnormal growths in the lining of your colon that are usually benign (noncancerous). If left in place, polyps can develop into colon cancer.  Polyps vary in size from a few millimeters to several inches in size. Your doctor cannot always tell if a polyp is cancerous by the appearance during colonoscopy. Therefore, polyps are usually removed or sampled with biopsy during your procedure through the colonoscope.  If any polyps are removed during your colonoscopy, they will need to be examined by a pathologist using a microscope. After the pathologist reviews the polyps your doctor will receive a report and mail you your results and follow up recommendations.

How are polyps removed?

Polyps are usually removed at the time of your colonoscopy.  Your doctor may remove tiny polyps using a biopsy forceps through the colonoscope.  Larger polyps are removed using wire loops called “snares” passed through the colonoscope.  This technique is called “snare polypectomy” and it uses an electrical current passed through the wire to remove the polyp. There are no pain detecting nerve endings in the lining of the colon and therefore, you will not feel pain during biopsy or polypectomy.

What happens after colonoscopy?

The doctor will explain the results to you.  If biopsies were performed, your doctor will send you a letter with those results within 1-2 weeks. Due to the use of sedatives during your procedure someone will need to drive you home from the endoscopy center and stay with you. Even if you feel alert, your reflexes and judgment may be impaired. You will not be able to work for the rest of the day. You may have some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during the examination. This should disappear when you pass gas. In most cases you will be able to eat after the examination, but occasionally the doctor will recommend a limited diet.

What are possible complications of colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy and removal of polyps are generally safe when performed by a gastroenterologist trained and experienced in these procedures. Possible complications include perforation or tear of the colon, bleeding, reactions to the sedatives or complications of heart of lung disease.  If perforation occurs your doctor will recommend hospitalization, antibiotics and possibly surgery.  Bleeding usually stops on its own or can be controlled during the colonoscopy. Rarely it requires follow up treatment. You will be monitored by a registered nurse throughout the procedure for any problems with sedation, breathing or heart problems.  Contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Note that bleeding can occur several days after the procedure. This bleeding can usually be controlled with repeat colonoscopy.

Dedicated Specialists in this procedure:

Dr. Joseph Alcorn
Dr. Sanjeev Arora
Dr. Michael Gavin
Dr. Michael Gilles
Dr. Martin Kistin
Dr. Thomas Ma
Dr. Gulshan Parasher
Dr. Arun Pillai
Dr. Trent Taylor