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Virtual Colonoscopy

A Virtual Colonoscopy, also called a CT Colonography scan, helps us evaluate your colon for polyps and early signs of colon cancer. Performed using a CT scanner, the virtual colonoscopy is a less-invasive way to look at your colon versus a traditional colonoscopy.

Traditional Colonoscopy

A doctor inserts a colonoscope (a flexible tube with a video camera) through the rectum into the colon. This allows the doctor to examine the inside of the entire length of the colon.

Benefits: Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking areas such as polyps, if needed.

Virtual Colonoscopy

This exam requires a very similar preparation as a traditional colonoscopy and your colon will be inflated with an air-like product (carbon dioxide) before the scan. However, instead of a colonoscope, the CT scanner and a computer program create 2-D and 3-D images of the colon. 

Benefits: Does not require sedation and is a lower risk exam as there is no colonoscope, which on rare occasions can puncture the wall of the colon. We can also see the outside wall of the colon as well as other organs like the liver, spleen, gallbladder and pancreas.

If you have questions about an upcoming Virtual Colonoscopy scan with us, please call your center


  1. The preparation for a virtual colonoscopy is similar to that of a traditional colonoscopy in that you will be required to cleanse your colon before the exam to ensure we capture the best images possible. We will call you prior to your appointment to discuss specific preparation instructions, which will include stopping into our center to pick up a liquid prep kit. Be sure to tell us if you are nursing or if there is a chance you are pregnant.
  2. On the day of your exam, please arrive 15 minutes early to check-in and bring prior imaging results with you, if instructed. 
  3. You will change into a gown and the CT technologist will help you onto the scanner table.  The technologist will insert a small tube into your rectum in order to fill your colon with carbon dioxide. Inflating the colon is necessary to capture better images and detect small polyps.
  4. The technologist will go out of the room to run the scanner from a computer located directly next to the scanner suite, visible through the viewing window. At this time the CT table you are on will move into the scanner and the technologist will take the images. The actual time you are in the scanner varies based on the exam but for most patients the actual scan time is around 4 breath holds at 20-25 seconds per breath hold. The whole exam should last about 20 minutes.
  5. After the exam, your images will be electronically sent to one of our radiologists who will review the information and write a report for your provider. This information is shared with your provider within 24-48 hours of your exam. The provider who referred you for the virtual colonoscopy will be the one to follow-up with you about your results.

 

Virtual colonoscopy may be an important screening test for you if:

  • You are over 50 years old
  • You have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • You are unable to complete a traditional colonoscopy

Talk to your provider if you are interested in having this exam.