What is a Polypectomy?
What’s the purpose of a Polypectomy?
What’s the Procedure?
A polypectomy is usually carried out at the same time as a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope will be inserted into your rectum so your doctor can see all segments of your colon. A colonoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light at the end of it.
A colonoscopy is offered routinely for people who are over 50 years old to check for any growths that could be indicative of cancer. If your doctor discovers polyps during your colonoscopy, they’ll usually perform a polypectomy at the same time.
There are several ways in which a polypectomy can be performed. Which way your doctor chooses will depend on what kind of polyps are in the colon.
Polyps can be small, large, sessile, or pedunculated. Sessile polyps are flat and don’t have a stalk. Pedunculated polyps grow on stalks like mushrooms. For small polyps (less than 5 millimetres in diameter), biopsy forceps can be used for removal. Larger polyps (up to 2 centimetres in diameter) can be removed using a snare.
In snare polypectomy, your doctor will loop a thin wire around the bottom of the polyp and use heat to cut the growth off. Any remaining tissue or stalk is then cauterized.
Some polyps, due to a large size, location, or configuration, are considered more technically challenging or are associated with an increased risk of complications. In these cases, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) or endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) techniques can be used.
In EMR, the polyp is lifted from the underlying tissue using a fluid injection before resection is performed. This fluid injection is often made of saline. The polyp is removed one piece at a time, called piecemeal resection. In ESD, fluid is injected deep in the lesion and the polyp is removed in one piece.
For some larger polyps that can’t be removed endoscopically, bowel surgery may be needed.
Once a polyp has been removed, it’ll be sent to a pathology lab to test if the polyp is cancerous. The results usually take one week to come back, but sometimes can take longer.
How to Prepare for a Polypectomy
In order to perform a colonoscopy, your doctors need your large intestine to be entirely clear and free from any visual obstruction. For this reason, you’ll be asked to thoroughly empty your bowels for one or two days prior to your procedure. This might involve using laxatives, having an enema, and eating a clear food diet.
Just before the polypectomy, you’ll be seen by an anaesthetist, who’ll administer anaesthetic for the procedure. They’ll ask you if you’ve had any bad reactions to anaesthetic before. Once you’re ready and in your hospital gown, you’ll be asked to lie on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest.
The procedure can be done relatively quickly. It usually only takes between 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on any necessary interventions.
How long does it take to recover?
You shouldn’t drive for 24 hours following a polypectomy.
Recovery is generally quick. Minor side effects such as gassiness, bloating, and cramps usually resolve within 24 hours. With a more involved procedure, a full recovery can take up to two weeks.
Your doctor will give you some instructions on how to care for yourself. They may ask you to avoid certain drinks and foods that can irritate your digestive system for two to three days after the procedure. These can include:
• spicy foods
Your doctor will also schedule you for a follow-up colonoscopy. It’s important to check that the polypectomy was successful and that no further polyps have developed.