Virtual Colonoscopy

Download/print the Virtual Colonoscopy patient brochure

Virtual Colonoscopy: Colon Cancer Screening

Virtual colonoscopy uses a CT exam to create high-resolution images of the colon. It is used to detect polyps and cancer in the colon. 

This exam can be used as a screening option for colon cancer. A benefit of this screening is that it doesn't require sedation. Patients are able to drive after the exam and return to their daily routine after the exam. Using state-of-the-art CAT scan imaging, you avoid the risks, pain and inconvenience associated with conventional colonoscopy. Virtual Colonoscopy is as accurate as conventional colonoscopy for the detection of polyps 10 mm and larger and can identify polyps as small as 3 to 4 mm.

Good candidates for this screening are those who are 50 years of age or older and are at average to moderate risk of developing colon cancer. Moderate risk individuals are those with a first-degree relative who have had colon cancer before age 60 or multiple first-degree relatives who were diagnosed at any age.

CT Virtual Colonoscopy is now a covered screening by several insurances, including BCBS of MN, Medica and Cigna. Check with your insurance company for your coverage. 

Virtual Colonoscopy screening is not appropriate for everyone, and should be discussed with your primary healthcare provider. Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss your colon cancer screening options and what is right for you.

This exam can also be used for diagnostic reasons. Virtual Colonoscopy is an option that many gastroenterologists may recommend when a patient can’t tolerate a traditional colonoscopy or has a longer or "redundant" colon with more twists and turns as this exam allows the provider to see the entire colon.

Where can I schedule this exam?

A Virtual Colonoscopy exam can be scheduled at: 

How should I prepare for my exam?
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to complete registration.
  • Bring your insurance card and a valid photo ID.

Let us know about any of the following:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy - known or possible
  • Recent chemotherapy (within 30 days)

You will begin preparation two days prior to your exam. The purpose of the preparation is to cleanse your colon to better detect any polyps. The instructions are located in the colonoscopy prep kit. If you did not receive this kit from your healthcare provider, you may get one from the Suburban Imaging office where your exam is scheduled. The kit should be obtained at least 3 days prior to your exam. 

Same day diagnostic exams may be scheduled after a failed traditional colonoscopy. A prep kit will be given to you by your referring healthcare provider and the exam will be performed two hours following the prep.

Please let us know if you have an insulin pump or glucose monitor. Our imaging machines may cause your device to malfunction, so it will need to be removed during your exam.

How long will my exam take?

A virtual colonoscopy typically takes less than 30 minutes.

What happens during my exam?

You will be asked to lie on a cushioned, moveable table, and positioned comfortably with pillows to maintain the proper position for the exam. A small, flexible rubber tube will be placed in your rectum to allow carbon dioxide to inflate the colon. The purpose of the carbon dioxide is to distend the colon to eliminate folds and wrinkles that may obscure the radiologist's view.  

The table will move slowly through the machine for the CT exam. You will hear slight buzzing, clicking and whirling sounds as the machine captures the images. A CT scan is taken while you lie on your back, and once again on your stomach.  This allows any fluid in the colon to move from one side to the other, creating the best possible pictures of the entire colon. 

For the best quality images, you need to be as still as possible during the exam. You may be asked to hold your breath for approximately 20 seconds while the images are acquired.  Once the scan is done the tube is gently removed.

A virtual colonoscopy typically lasts less than 30 minutes.

What happens after my exam?

Your images will be interpreted by a board-certified radiologist (doctor) specializing in abdominal imaging. The findings will be sent to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will contact you to discuss the results.


Is the exam covered by insurance?

Medica, BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota, and Cigna insurance cover this service every 5 years. 

All other insurances vary on coverage; we recommend you check with your insurance company to verify coverage of this service. Virtual Colonoscopy screening CPT code is 74263.

Call 952.893.000 to schedule your CT Virtual Colonoscopy at Suburban Imaging – Southdale.


This shows a rendering of the colon from a virtual colonoscopy exam. Polyps as small as 3-4mm (less than 1/8 of an inch) can be identified with virtual colonoscopy.

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