Preparing for a Colonoscopy

Preparing for a Colonoscopy
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What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy vs Sigmoidoscopy (image in the public domain)

Colonoscopy is the direct visual inspection of the large intestine (colon) by means of the colonoscope. The colonoscope is a flexible tube with a small camera attached to it. It can examine the whole colon. Click on image to enlarge.

A colonoscopy is used to detect early signs of colon cancer and rectal cancer and to diagnose unexplained problems, such as anemia, abdominal pain, and blood in the stools. It is also used as an operative instrument to remove polyps and obtain tissue for biopsy. Below is information on preparing for a colonoscopy.

How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy

The bowels must be meticulously clean. If there is any fecal matter remaining, the procedure may be postponed. Your doctor will provide instructions.

Normally, you will go on a clear liquid diet for 1-3 days before the procedure. Some liquids will be unacceptable like red and purple drinks. Acceptable liquids normally include water, sports drinks, plain tea, plain coffee, strained fruit juice, broth, and gelatin.

Your doctor’s instructions may require a laxative or enema the night before the colonoscopy. If your doctor requests a laxative, discuss taking a natural laxative. A laxative will loosen the stool and an enema (with water, sometimes a mild soap) will help flush it out.

To prevent dehydration, it is important to drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine).

When preparing for a colonoscopy with laxatives or enemas, stay near (or better yet, in) a bathroom and wear loose clothing. Keep some reading material or a laptop nearby. If you are responsible for young children, it would be best to have someone watch them.

Instead of using toilet paper, use wet wipes or a water bottle to reduce irritation.

Make plans to have someone drive you home after the procedure. The sedative given before the procedure can take about 12 hours to wear off.


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