How is a painless colonoscopy different from a virtual colonoscopy?

This question was asked in Beverly Hills, California on 02/24/2012.
Is there a difference between these two medical procedures? Do doctors recommend one over the other? I have heard about both but I am confused if it is actually a procedure.

Doctors Answers (2)

Eric Hill, M.D.
Answered on: 2/28/2012

A colonoscopy is the process of taking a long flexible camera and running it up the colon to evaluate for polyps. It requires a bowel prep to clean the colon, and is usually performed under sedation for comfort purposes. If a polyp or abnormality is seen, it can be sampled or removed at the same time. A virtual colonoscopy is an imaging procedure, CT scan, performed to look at the colon. It still requires a bowel prep, and air insufflation in the colon, which can cause discomfort. If a polyp or lesion is noted on the virtual colonoscopy, then a full colonoscopy is still needed.

Harsha Vittal, M.D.
Answered on: 2/27/2012

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a gastroenterologist inserts a tube in the colon to inspect directly. Medications are given to make the procedure painless. A virtual colonoscopy is a CT scan of the colon which has more discomfort because no medications are given.