What is polypectomy?
Polypectomy is the procedure for removing polyps from the digestive tract. Normally polypectomy is performed for polyps in the colon during colonoscopy but polyps can form in other parts of the digestive tract including stomach and small bowel and sometimes require removal from these sites as well. Polypectomy is an important part of colonoscopy. Looking for polyps and removing them is one of the most common reasons for performing colonoscopy.
How is polypectomy performed?
Polypectomy is performed with specialised equipment that allows your Gastroenterologist to safely remove the polyp from the lining of your bowel. This is usually performed with a loop of wire called a ‘snare’. Sometimes a small amount of electrical current is administered during polypectomy to assist the cutting and reduce the risk of bleeding after the procedure.
Are all polyps removed?
When polyps are detected during colonoscopy it is often possible to determine whether they are cancerous or pose a risk of becoming cancerous. However, the most accurate way to determine if a polyp poses a risk is to remove it and look at it under a microscope. For this reason, polyps are usually removed at the time of colonoscopy where it is safe to do so. This eliminates any risk of the polyp becoming cancerous in the future and also allows your doctor to determine how regularly you should be checked for polyps in the future.
Are there any risks?
Removing polyps is generally safe and a routine part of colonoscopy. There is a small risk of bleeding after polyp removal although usually the bleeding is minor and will settle without any particular treatment. People who take medications that increase the risk of bleeding are at higher risk of bleeding and may need to avoid taking these medications for up to a week after the removal of polyps. There is a very small risk of tearing of the bowel (perforation) during removal of polyps. The risk may be increased during removal of very large polyps and under some circumstances large polyps may be left so the risks of removal and the alternatives (surgery) can be fully discussed.
If you have unanswered questions about the procedure please phone your Gastroenterologist. Further information is available from the Gastroenterological Society of Australia on their ‘consumer information’ page at www.gesa.org.au.