Understanding Anoscopy: An In-Depth Look at the Procedure
Anoscopy is an examination that involves a small, rigid, tubular instrument called an anoscope. The goal of this procedure is for doctors to find any abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract. Doctors achieve this by getting a visual of the wall of the anus and the lowest portion of the rectum.
Why is this Procedure Conducted?
An anoscopy will determine various conditions that an individual may have that can affect the lower intestines. Some of these conditions include, but are not limited to, anal fissures, abscess, hemorrhoids, polyps, inflammation, and cancer.
- Anal fissures: An anal fissure is a small tear in the lining of the anus that can be acute or chronic. Symptoms of an anal fissure include pain during a bowel movement, bleeding, itching, and a foul-smelling discharge.
- Abscess: An abscess is a confined pocket of pus that collects in tissues, organs, and spaces inside the body. An abscess is easy to feel and is generally caused by infection.
- Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus that cause discomfort and bleeding. There are various potential causes that are associated with hemorrhoids; however, a common result is from straining during bowel movements. Hemorrhoids can be located inside the anus or they can develop on the skin around the anus.
- Polyps: Polyps is abnormal tissue growth on a mucous membrane. More specifically, colorectal polyps can grow in any part of the colon. Polyps are harmless for the most part; however, polyps can turn cancerous, which is why they should be treated immediately.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is unusual redness, swelling, and/or irritation. Inflammation in the rectal area can be categorized as conditions such as Proctitis and Anusitis. Proctitis is inflammation in the lining of the rectum and can occur in an acute or chronic setting. Anusitis is an inflamed area just inside the anus. Patients generally complain about small amounts of discharge in the anal area, which leads to tiny cracks that, in turns, trigger itching.
- Cancer: Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Cancer can form anywhere there are cells, therefore, procedures such an anoscopy allows doctors to find any cancer cells in the rectal area.
An anoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that doesn’t require too much time and doesn’t require any sedatives. Before the procedure is conducted, your doctor will ask that you take off all of your undergarments and position yourself into a fetal position on the table or bend forward on the table. The doctor may also ask the patient to contract his or her anal muscles as if they are having a bowel movement. The lubricated anoscope is then carefully inserted.
It’s important to note that other procedures may be performed in conjunction with an anoscopy such as digital rectal exam and biopsy. A digital rectal exam will be conducted before the anoscopy process begins and a biopsy is conducted after the anoscopy process if needed.
- Digital rectal exam: a digital rectum exam is an examination of the lower rectum. The health care provider will use a gloved, lubricated finger to check the lower rectum for any abnormalities. Generally, the healthcare provider is looking for issues such as hemorrhoids or fissures.
- Biopsy: a biopsy is an examination of tissue that was removed from the living body. This is to help discover the presence, cause or extent of a present condition.
Some anoscopes have built-in lights, which are beneficial in giving doctors a good view of the rectal area. However, doctors have an option to use anoscopes without a light that gives them the opportunity to attach their preferred light to properly illuminate the view.
Preparing for the Procedure
Before getting an anoscopy done, individuals will need to empty their bladders and bowel movements beforehand. This will ensure that you are as comfortable as possible while the procedure is being conducted. Please note that your doctor may give you a laxative or enema to help you empty your bowels before the procedure begins.
What are the Complications?
Patients shouldn’t experience any complications from an anoscopy procedure. If complications occur, patients should contact their doctor to get immediate medical attention. With that said, this procedure is a relatively short process and should be painless. However; individuals may feel pressure in their anal area or have the urge to have a bowel movement after the procedure is finished. In the case of hemorrhoids, you may experience small amounts of bleeding but that should subside shortly after the procedure.
About the Anoscope
Many individuals fear anoscopy procedures because of the uncomfortable process. However, since this process is minimally invasive, patients should not be concerned if they have a trusted doctor aiding them through the quick process. The anoscopy procedure and medical tools used are harmless and will bring patients one step closer to a much healthier life.
An anoscope is a two-part device made out of a sheath and a solid inner obturator. The obturator has a rounded end to allow for easier insertion. Anoscopes can come in both metal or plastic. It’s important to note that neither options cause more discomfort than the other. Your physician will use whatever is available for the procedure. Metal anoscopes are reusable but need to be sterilized between uses. Most plastic anoscopes are disposable.
One of the benefits of the anoscope is that it is about 2 inches wide, which is comparable to the width of a normal bowel movement. With that said, it’s still important that the anoscope is properly lubricated due to possible discomfort from insertion from the opposite end.
The Bottom Line
The anoscopy procedure does an excellent job of helping patients find possible abnormalities that can be hindering their health. If a doctor recommends that you get an anoscopy procedure done, it’s important that you strongly consider moving forward with this procedure as this will help you in the long-run by identifying harmful conditions and preventing these conditions to spread further.
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