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A colonoscopy is a safe, effective means of visually examining the full lining of the colon and rectum using a long, flexible, tubular instrument. It is used to diagnose colon and rectum problems and to perform biopsies and remove colon polyps. Most colonoscopies are performed on an outpatient basis.

The benefits of colonoscopy include its ability to detect and remove most polyps without abdominal surgery. It is more accurate than a X-ray of the colon to detect polyps or early cancer. Often, polyps can be removed at the same time, which is a major step towards the prevention of colon cancer.

A colonoscopy is recommended if a patient has a change in bowel habit or bleeding, which may indicate a possible problem in the colon or rectum. It is also necessary to:

  • Check unexplained abdominal symptoms
  • Check inflammatory bowel disease (colitis)
  • Verify findings of polyps or tumors located with a barium enema exam
  • Examine patients who test positive for blood in the stool
  • Monitor patients with a past history of colon polyps or cancer or those over age 40

Your doctor may recommend that you undergo your first routine colonoscopy at age 45, but it may be sooner depending on your risk factors. How frequently you will need a preventive colonoscopy also depends on your history, family history, and other risk factors. Speak with your doctor about when and how often you’ll need to undergo a colonoscopy.

Who is a Candidate?

Most people should undergo their first routine colonoscopy at age 45. If that colonoscopy doesn’t find anything abnormal and you don’t have any risk factors for colorectal disease, you probably won’t have another one for another 10 years. If a colonoscopy finds polyps or adenomas (non-cancerous tumors), you may need your next colonoscopy in another five years or less.

What to Expect

For one or two days prior to your colonoscopy, you will undergo colon prep. This involves cleaning out your colon by drinking a special liquid that your GI doctor prescribes and perhaps following a special diet. You’ll want to plan to be home during this time, as you’ll be using the bathroom frequently.

Your colonoscopy will be performed under “twilight sedation” (very drowsy), so you probably won’t remember much about the procedure. A colonoscopy usually takes only about 30 to 45 minutes. During the test, your GI doctor will insert the thin, flexible colonoscope into your anus and move it slowly through the rectum and into your colon. Your GI doctor will use the colonoscope to closely examine your colon and check for any irregularities. Then, the GI doctor will carefully remove the colonoscope back through your anus.

After the colonoscopy, you should plan to stay at the hospital for one to two hours. You should bring a trusted adult with you to drive you home and stay with you for the rest of the day. Your GI team will give you specific instructions about when you can eat normally and resume your normal activities.

Why Choose UHealth?

A broad array of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Regardless of your age, condition, or whether you need long- or short-term digestive treatments, you will receive the most accurate diagnosis and most effective treatment to keep your stomach, digestive system, and organs healthy.

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