CT Virtual Colonoscopy Patient Prep

Virtual Colonscopy Content Block Washington Radiology Associates has a long-standing commitment to superior patient care and a history of innovation in medical imaging throughout the DC metropolitan area. CT Virtual Colonoscopy represents one of the many leading efforts by Washington Radiology to use advanced CT technology and help save lives.

What is CT Virtual Colonoscopy?

CT Virtual Colonoscopy is a safe non-invasive procedure to identify growths (polyps) in the colon. Polyps have been shown to be the precursor of many cancers in the colon and rectum (colorectal cancer), and the goal of CT Virtual Colonoscopy is to find these potentially dangerous polyps before they can cause a serious problem.

CT Virtual Colonoscopy at Washington Radiology Associates utilizes state-of-the-art helical CT scanning to rapidly scan the colon with x-rays and create 2- and 3-dimensional images of the colon. CT Virtual Colonoscopy is an alternative to conventional colonoscopy, which requires the introduction of a long tube into the rectum which is then advanced through the entire colon and allows the examining physician to directly view the lining of the colon.

Who should have a CT Virtual Colonoscopy?

According to guidelines endorsed by the American Cancer Society and other national groups, screening for colorectal cancer utilizing a technique which examines the entire colon is recommended for individuals beginning at age 50. For individuals at high risk for colon cancer (a personal or family history of colon cancer, personal history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer, or a history of chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), screening is recommended beginning at age 40. The available options for evaluation of the entire colon are CT Virtual Colonoscopy, conventional colonoscopy, and barium enema.

What do I need to know about colon cancer?

Cancer of the colon and rectum (colorectal cancer) is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, with approximately 134,900 new cases diagnosed and 57,000 deaths annually. The lifetime risk for an individual in the US is approximately 6%. It has been clearly demonstrated that most colorectal cancers begin as small, non-invasive adenomas (polyps) along the surface of the colon. These can take between five and 15 years to become malignant.The goal of both CT Virtual Colonoscopy and conventional colonoscopy is to find these polyps while they are small and harmless and remove them before they can develop into colorectal cancer.

Why should I have my CT Virtual Colonoscopy at Washington Radiology?

Using advanced helical CT scanning, Washington Radiology can obtain very thin “slices” of the abdomen to create extremely detailed pictures of the colon. We also utilize a premium software application to create the images necessary to view the colon in 3-D detail. The physicians at Washington Radiology have conducted a study of this technique on a series of patients who first underwent CT Virtual Colonoscopy at WRA and then immediately underwent conventional colonoscopy the same day by highly-experienced gastroenterologists. By first performing this study, the physicians at WRA have been able to optimize their technique to provide the most accurate CT Virtual Colonoscopy examinations available.

What can I expect before, during and after my CT Virtual Colonoscopy?

In order to obtain the best images, a bowel preparation is required. Currently the preparation is similar to that required for conventional colonoscopy. You will be given an instruction sheet at the time you schedule your appointment, or you may find the required preparation listed at www.washingtonradiology.com, under CT Virtual Colonoscopy.

In addition, it is necessary to distend the colon for the best images. After you enter the examination room and are placed on the CT examination table, the nurse or technologist will insert a small plastic tip into the rectum and slowly, using an electronic control, inflate the colon with carbon dioxide (which will be rapidly reabsorbed by your colon).

Two scans are performed, one while lying on your back, the other while lying on your stomach. The actual time of each of the two scans is 20 seconds. There is a three-minute pause between the two scans to allow the computer to process the many images acquired. After the second scan your examination is complete. Total examination time, from the moment you enter the scan room until completion, is approximately 10 minutes.

How accurate are the results and what are the risks of this procedure?

CT Virtual Colonoscopy has been shown to be very sensitive in the detection of polyps. However,Virtual Colonoscopy is not 100% accurate, and some polyps will not be visualized and may be overlooked. This is also true of conventional colonoscopy. The ability of CT Virtual Colonoscopy and conventional colonoscopy to detect polyps that have reached a size where they could be cancerous or pre-cancerous are similar. With CT Virtual Colonoscopy, there is no sedation required and there are no after-effects. Since this procedure involves the use of x-rays, there is radiation exposure.

How does CT Virtual Colonoscopy compare with conventional colonoscopy?

CT Virtual Colonoscopy was developed to provide a safe, non-invasive method to easily screen individuals for colon cancer. Conventional colonoscopy requires sedation, usually the loss of a day of work, and has a small but significant complication rate which includes possible perforation of the colon. Conventional colonoscopy is an established, effective method of colon cancer screening, and only conventional colonoscopy allows for the removal of polyps at the time of the examination. Polyps found by Virtual Colonoscopy must then be removed by conventional colonoscopy (approximately 10% of patients will have polyps that require removal). The ability to detect polyps that have reached a size at which they become potentially worrisome is similar for both procedures. You should consult with your personal physician to determine which method of screening is most appropriate for you.

Will insurance cover my CT Virtual Colonoscopy?

DIAGNOSTIC Virtual Colonoscopy is covered by Medicare in all cases where known risk factors are present and traditional colonoscopy has failed or there are other medical issues which prevent the patient from obtaining a conventional colonoscopy.

SCREENING Virtual Colonoscopy (where no risk factors are present) is now covered by commercial insurance carriers in DC, Maryland and Virginia as required by state and District law, and as recommended by the American Cancer Society. ACS guidelines state that Virtual Colonoscopy is a recommended screening tool for men and women beginning at age 50 who have an average risk for developing colorectal cancer. Screening studies are not currently covered by Medicare although guidelines for coverage are currently under review. To confirm your coverage, please contact your insurance company prior to scheduling your study.


At the request of the American College Of Radiology, Mark Klein, MD, radiologist at Washington Radiology Associates, is in New York for a live interview on Virtual Colonoscopy with FOX News Online in the STRATEGY ROOM. Watch Now.
July 27, 2009

Mark Klein, MD, radiologist at Washington Radiology Associates, discusses Virtual Colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer with "Watch News Channel 8 Live!" anchor Dave Lucas on the mid-day show. Watch Now.
January 12, 2009

Low Dose CT

CT Virtual Colonoscopy Locations

Washington, DC

University Medical Building
2141 K Street,NW
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20037

Suburban Maryland

Chase Tower
4445 Willard Avenue
Suite 200
Chevy Chase,Maryland 20815

Northern Virginia

Lakeside At Loudoun Tech Center I
21351 Ridgetop Circle
Suite 150
Sterling,Virginia 20166

Scheduling Appointments

Washington Radiology provides imaging services for patients upon referral from a physician. Patients are seen by appointment. However, emergencies do occur and we make every attempt to accommodate these cases. To schedule an appointment at Washington Radiology, please call: (703) 280-9800