Virtual Colonoscopy

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Comparing virtual colonoscopy and optical colonoscopy

  • Virtual colonoscopy is less invasive and faster to perform than optical colonoscopy and does not require conscious sedation.
  • Even though virtual colonoscopy is less invasive than optical colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy still involves injecting air into the colon, which can be uncomfortable for some patients. On the other hand, with adequate conscious sedation, patients usually experience little or no discomfort with optical colonoscopy.
  • Virtual colonoscopy is not as reliable as optical colonoscopy in detecting small polyps (less than 5mm in size). Even though most experts believe that polyps smaller than 5mm are usually benign, some small polyps can be cancerous or become cancerous if not removed.
  • Virtual colonoscopy is not as accurate as colonoscopy in finding flat cancers or polyps that are not protruding, that is, are not polyp-like.
  • Virtual colonoscopy cannot remove polyps. If polyps are found by virtual colonoscopy, then optical colonoscopy must be performed to remove the polyps. Therefore, many individuals having virtual colonoscopy will have to undergo a second procedure, optical colonoscopy.
  • Even though the amount of radiation exposure with virtual colonoscopy is considered safe, the long term radiation effects of mass screening with CT is not known.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015
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