How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy uses an instrument called colonoscope to internally examine the large intestine and rectum. The colonoscope has a small fiber optic camera attached to a flexible tube which is passed through the anus. Patients are normally sedated to avoid the pain. Pain killers may also be administered to reduce pain. The colonoscope will then be moved gently into the large bowel and sometimes into the lower part of small intestine. Sometimes, air is inserted through the scope to get better a view. You need to prepare yourself at least a week before you undergo colonoscopy. Following guide will help you prepare for this important diagnosis.

Complexity Level: Complex

Time Required: One week

Resources Required:

1. Doctor’s prescription

2. Bowel prep kit


To achieve better results out of a colonoscopy, the colon should be free of solid matter. The intestines should be completely clean. The doctor should be able to get a clear view of your colon without obstruction. The patient may be advised to refrain from certain medicines. Following are the preparatory plans for a colonoscopy.

1. Medications

Ensure you follow the directions prescribed by your doctor carefully. Unless instructed otherwise, you can continue to take your medicines. If you are on blood-thinning medicines, you may be asked to refrain from taking the medication. Excess of iron in the intestine may hinder proper visualizing of colon. You may be asked to refrain from iron supplements as part of colonoscopy prep.

2. Allergies

The patient should inform the doctor about any allergies to any medications or painkillers. If you are allergic to sedatives, it may cause nausea, runny nose, itchy eyes and skin rashes. If you have any questions, get it clarified before you agree for sedation and painkillers during the procedure. Provide enough history and information about your allergies so that your healthcare professional can choose the best medicine for you.

3. Bowel prep

It is important to clean the bowel for the doctor to view the walls of the intestine clearly. As part of colonoscopy prep, you may be prescribed laxative tablets to help you purge. Doctors may also prescribe liquid drinkable solutions available in wide range of flavors, which will cause diarrhea. These are normally prescribed two to three days before colonoscopy. Ensure to have immediate access to bathrooms. Drink lots of plain water to stay hydrated.

4. Diet two days before colonoscopy

Avoid heavy solid foods and introduce lighter meals to your diet. Clear soups, potatoes (without the skin), eggs, steamed fish are few examples that can be included in your diet. Increase your fluid intake and keep yourself hydrated. You should avoid heavy foods such as red meat, nuts, vegetables, whole grain food, red and purple colored beverages and ice cream.

5. A day before colonoscopy

On the day before colonoscopy, you should have light breakfast. After 12 noon, you will be allowed to have an intake of only liquids such as plain water, strained fruit juice, clear soup broth, plain tea and coffee. Start the bowel prep regime as instructed by your doctor in time. Check the time to start fasting. You will be expected to fast from a specific time. Fasting means absolutely no intake of drinking or eating. Once you start fasting, you will not be able to drink water in the evening. Ensure you stay sufficiently hydrated. Get to bed early and have good rest before the day of the procedure.

6. Arrange transportation

Since you will be sedated during the procedure, you will need someone to take you home after the examination. Sedatives may interfere in your decision making process, similar to alcoholic effect. Hence, arrange for your transport before the day of the procedure.

7. On day of the procedure

At least two hours before the examination, stop drinking all types of liquids. If you are diabetic, you should not take your diabetic medications on the day of examination. You can resume your medication after the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Will the procedure be painful?

Sedative medication and painkillers will make you relaxed and sleep enough all through the procedure. You may not even remember anything after the procedure. You will not feel any discomfort.

2. Should I take a day off on the day of the procedure?

Ideally, yes. After the examination you will not be able to drive yourself because of the sedatives used on you. Hence, it’s advisable that you take a day off.

3. How long will the procedure last?

It takes about twenty to thirty minutes. After the procedure you will be under observation in the recovery room.

4. What if the laxatives fail to work?

Please contact your doctor for further advice before you take any over-the-counter laxative.

Quick Tips:

1. Be positive and do not get anxious about the procedure. Your anxiety will directly reflect during the procedure.

2. Ensure to eat healthy after the procedure to get back your stamina. Do not indulge in junk food.

3. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. You will have to repeat the procedure if you don’t get it right the first time.

4. Stay near the bathroom when you start your bowel prep regime.

5. Be ready with couple of change garments that you can use in case of a mishap that can occur on the day of the procedure.

Things To Watch Out For:

1. You may feel nauseated when you cannot tolerate the bowel prep. Have a lemon drop candy which you can use between each glass of prep intake.

2. Taking the prep will cause abdomen bloating. Walk around the house to reduce bloating.

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