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Virtual Colonoscopy


  • A virtual colonoscopy, also called virtual colonography, is a procedure to examine the colon (large bowel). The colon is the long tube that connects the small bowel with the anus (opening through which stool passes). The colon absorbs water from digested foods and turns the digested food into stool. It stores the stool until it passes out through your anus. With virtual colonoscopy, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be used. Scanned images of the colon are made to show pictures in two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) views. This will help caregivers clearly see the different parts of your colon while watching the images in a monitor. You and your caregiver will decide what type of virtual colonoscopy is right for you.
    Picture of a normal digestive system
  • During a virtual colonoscopy, your caregiver inserts a thin, small, and bendable tube into your rectum (rear end). If a CT scan is used, air or carbon dioxide (gas) is passed through to distend (expand) your colon. In an MRI colonoscopy, warm water or solutions with contrast (dye) may be used to clearly see the inside of your colon. The scanners take pictures of the colon that may help your caregiver to diagnose the diseases and conditions that are affecting your colon. Virtual colonoscopy is mainly used to look for polyps (growths) or cancers (tumors) in the colon and rectum. This procedure may also check for diseases that cause changes in bowel movement (BM), bleeding, blockages, or inflammation (swelling). With a virtual colonoscopy, conditions of the colon, such as polyps, may be diagnosed and treated, and your symptoms relieved.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Stool softeners: This medicine makes it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to treat or prevent constipation.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Ask your caregiver when the results of your procedure will be available.

Prevent constipation:

High-fiber foods, extra liquids, and regular exercise can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. Regular exercise helps your digestive system work. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed.

Eat healthy foods:

Choose healthy foods from all the food groups every day. Include whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, including dark green and orange vegetables. Include dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose protein sources, such as lean beef and chicken, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Ask how many servings of fats, oils, and sweets you should have each day, and if you need to be on a special diet.

Drinking liquids:

Adults should drink about 9 to 13 cups of liquid each day. One cup is 8 ounces. Good choices of liquids for most people include water, juice, and milk. Coffee, soup, and fruit may be counted in your daily liquid amount. Ask your caregiver how much liquid you should drink each day.


Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.


  • You have a feeling of being too full or bloated.
  • You have a fever.
  • You are unable to have a BM.
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up).
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure, condition, or care.


  • You have problems having a bowel movement or passing urine.
  • You have trouble breathing all of a sudden.
  • Your abdomen becomes tender and hard.
  • Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.
  • Your stools are black or have blood in them.
  • Your vomit (throw up) has blood or bile in it.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.