Proctoscopy vs Colonoscopy: The Difference Between These Common Procedures

Proctoscopy vs Colonoscopy: The Difference Between These Common Procedures

Proctoscopy vs Colonoscopy

Proctoscopy and colonoscopy might sound fairly similar, but these two procedures are quite different. While a proctoscope is useful for examining your anal canal and rectum, a colonoscope allows doctors to view the length of your large intestine.

Read on to discover more about proctoscopy vs colonoscopy, including the instruments, methods and purposes for these procedures.

About Proctoscopy

To examine your anal canal and rectum, a doctor can perform a proctoscopy. This is a quick examination that can help your care provider spot signs of trouble, remove hemorrhoids or monitor your anorectal condition.

Proctoscopy Procedure

To perform a proctoscopy, a doctor uses a proctoscope. This rigid instrument is several inches long. It may have transparent sides or an opening in the wall to allow the doctor to view or access the tissue in the examination area.

During a proctoscopy procedure, you will undress from the waist down and put on a hospital gown. The medical team will ask you to lie down with your knees to your chest.

Once you are in position, the doctor will carefully insert the proctoscope into your anal canal. To increase visibility, the doctor may blow a small amount of air into your rectum or use a light at the end of the instrument.

While the proctoscope is in place, the doctor might remove any hemorrhoids or polyps from your anorectal tract. It may be necessary to biopsy this tissue. Then the doctor will slide the scope out of your rectum.

Proctoscopy Purpose

Using a proctoscope allows your doctor to view your anal canal and your rectum, so it is useful for diagnosing or addressing problems in that area. A proctoscope does not travel into the colon.

Doctors often perform proctoscopies in response to problems that patients are experiencing. For example, your doctor might suggest this type of examination if you are dealing with rectal bleeding, recurring constipation or chronic diarrhea. During the procedure, your doctor can look for indications of the cause.

Proctoscopies are useful for addressing internal hemorrhoids. The doctor can view the affected tissue and remove it during the examination.

If you have a history of anorectal problems, such as rectal cancer, you may undergo proctoscopies on a regular basis. This can alert your medical team to new developments or signs of recurrence.

What to Know about Proctoscopy

  • Unless you have had rectal cancer or other anorectal conditions in the past, you may undergo a proctoscopy only if you are experiencing problems. Most people don't get routine proctoscopies.
  • You will need to perform bowel prep before a procedure. This may require performing an enema.
  • Most people do not need anesthetic during a proctoscopy. You may feel some discomfort or cramping, but the procedure shouldn't be painful.
  • The procedure may last only five minutes, or it may take up to 15 minutes.
  • This is an outpatient procedure. You can usually resume normal activities right away.

About Colonoscopy

Compared to a proctoscopy, a colonoscopy is more invasive. Although this procedure requires more prep and more recovery time, it is necessary for maintaining good colorectal health.

Colonoscopy Procedure

Unlike a proctoscope, a colonoscope is a flexible instrument. This device is usually around 5 feet long. The end of the instrument has a light and a camera to allow your doctor to view your large intestine as the scope passes through it.

As with a proctoscopy, you'll need to undress and lie on your side with your knees drawn toward your body. The doctor will slide the scope into your anal canal. Blowing air as the scope moves helps open up the passage for a clear view.

The doctor will move the scope all the way through your large intestine. Once the instrument reaches the end of the colon, the doctor will start to draw it back out.

The camera on the end of the colonoscope will deliver images to a nearby monitor throughout the procedure. The medical team will watch this screen for any areas of concern as the colonoscope advances and as it is withdrawn.

If the team members spot any polyps, they may be able to remove them during the colonoscopy. However, the doctor might have to do a separate procedure to remove any large growths. Any tissue that the doctor removes will probably have to be sent off for a biopsy.

To learn more about this procedure from a doctor who performs colonoscopies regularly, watch the following video:

Colonoscopy Purpose

Some people get a colonoscopy because they are having digestive problems, such as bleeding, pain, constipation or diarrhea.

However, for most people, a colonoscopy is a diagnostic tool. Experts recommend that you undergo this test on a regular basis to look for signs of colon cancer. Polyps can develop into cancer, so finding and removing them early can help prevent this disease.

What to Know about Colonoscopy

  • Adults over age 50 usually need a colonoscopy every five years. You may be able to alternate between having colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies.
  • Bowel prep is required for all colonoscopies. This may involve diet adjustments, laxatives and enemas.
  • Although you may not require full anesthetic, you will receive some type of sedation before your colonoscopy.
  • A colonoscopy may take around half an hour. You will probably not be allowed to leave the outpatient facility until your sedative has had time to wear off.
  • After a colonoscopy, you will have to take it easy for the rest of the day, and you will not be allowed to drive.

The most important thing to know about proctoscopy vs colonoscopy is that your doctor is the best person to advise you on which procedure is best for you. Your caregiver is likely to recommend a proctoscopy for hemorrhoids but a colonoscopy for colon cancer screening.

To learn more, set up an appointment with your colorectal specialist.

Brian Chandler