Anoscopy

Written by Tony Watt | Published on July 25, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

Overview

An anoscopy is a procedure that can help a physician identify an abnormality in your gastrointestinal tract, in particular your anus and rectum.

To perform an anoscopy, the doctor will insert a device called an anoscope into your anus. Using an anoscope, the doctor can get a detailed look at the tissue inside.

An anoscopy can help identify several conditions and diseases that can affect the lower part of the intestines. These include cancer, tears in the tissue called anal fissures, and hemorrhoids (swollen veins around the anus and/or rectum).

How to Prepare for an Anoscopy

If you are going to have an anoscopy, you’ll need to empty your bladder and bowels before the procedure. Doing so will make you more comfortable during the procedure.

If you’re having trouble, your doctor may give you a laxative or enema to help you completely empty your bowels before the anoscopy is performed.

What an Anoscopy Entails

The anoscope is a rigid hollow tube that is 3 to 4 inches long and about 2 to 3 inches wide. The anoscope is equipped with a light and allows the doctor to examine the anus and rectum in detail.

Before the anoscope is inserted into your anus, you’ll be asked to remove your undergarments. Your doctor may request that you position yourself in the fetal position on a table, or bend forward over the table.

The doctor will then insert the anoscope, which is lubricated, into your gastrointestinal tract via your anus. While the anoscope is being inserted, the doctor may ask you to intensify your internal muscles and relax as you would when having a bowel movement. This eases the placement of the anoscope.

Once the exam is performed, the doctor gently withdraws the anoscope. Your doctor may decide to perform other procedures in conjunction with the anoscopy.

These can include:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): the DRE involves placing a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum via the anus. This is done to feel for irregularities inside your rectal area.
  • Biopsy: depending on the results of the other tests, your doctor may also want to take a small sample of tissue.

What Are the Risks of an Anoscopy?

An anoscopy is usually a painless procedure, but you may feel pressure or an urge to have a bowel movement while it’s being performed. If you have hemorrhoids, there may be a small amount of bleeding.

It’s important to relax and tell your doctor how you’re feeling. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch.

What Could an Anoscopy Find?

This is also an outpatient procedure, which means that once it is done, you can go about your day. Your doctor can usually give you an idea of the results once the exam is complete.

An anoscopy can spot a number of problems, including:

  • Abscess: a deposit of pus that can cause swelling and other problems in the tissue around it. Causes for an abscess can include the blockage of a gland, infection of a tear in the tissue called an anal fissure, a sexually transmitted infection, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel diseases include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, characterized by inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Anal fissures: tears in the tissue of the anus that can occur due to constipation, having hard, large bowel movements, long periods of diarrhea, or decreased blood flow. Anal fissures can also appear after childbirth or in people with Crohn’s disease. They can be found in people of all ages and are common in infants.
  • Hemorrhoids: swollen veins around the anus and rectum. The veins swell when they’re under extra pressure. Hemorrhoids are common in pregnant women and can also occur due to an infection or straining during a bowel movement. Swollen veins in your anus and rectal area can be painful and cause bleeding.
  • Polyps: growths that protrude from the lining of the rectum or colon. They’re usually benign, but some can be cancerous. Regular screenings can be very effective in preventing polyps from becoming a serious problem.
  • Cancer: can appear in the digestive tract, including the anus and the rectum.

The results of your anoscopy will determine next steps. The test can help your doctor determine appropriate treatment for your condition, or the need for more testing.

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