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Colonoscopy Preparation

Colonoscopy Preparation: Before the Procedure

In the days leading up to your colonoscopy, your doctor will want to discuss your medical history and any medical conditions you may have. Be sure to bring a list of your current medications to your appointment, including prescriptions and any over-the-counter medications, supplements, or herbal remedies you are taking. Also tell your doctor if you have any allergies.

At your appointment, your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding:

  • Where and when to arrive at the medical facility
  • How to do your colonoscopy preparation
  • What to expect the day of and the days following your procedure.


You'll need to arrange a ride home after the colonoscopy -- you won't be allowed to drive because of the sedatives you'll be given during the procedure. Your doctor may also give you other special instructions.

Preparing Your Bowel for Colonoscopy

For the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe, your bowel must be completely empty. So, to prepare for the procedure you may have to follow a liquid diet for one to three days beforehand.

A liquid diet means consuming only:

  • Fat-free bouillon or broth
  • Strained fruit juice, no pulp
  • Water
  • Plain coffee
  • Plain tea
  • Regular and diet sodas


In most cases, you can also eat gelatin or Popsicles in any color except red or purple. The night before the procedure, you will also take one of several types of laxatives.This is known as a bowel prep. Please note that your doctor may have specific instructions that you need to follow.

Colonoscopy Procedure

A colonoscopy is a semi-invasive procedure performed under general anesthesia or sedation, in which a physician visually examines a patient's colon and, if necessary, removes cells for biopsy. A physician may order a colonoscopy if a patient is experiencing gastrointestinal problems or symptoms. Additionally, many physicians recommend an annual colonoscopy for patients over 50 as a screening for colorectal cancer. Typically, a gastroenterologist, or a physician who specializes in the gastrointestinal system, performs a colonoscopy. The procedure itself involves a special scope, which is run through the rectum and into the colon, or large intestine. The images picked up by the scope are transmitted to a screen, allowing the physician to detect any abnormalities indicating a disease or disorder. Common problems detected by colonoscopy include irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, or ulcerative colitis.

A colonoscopy is performed in a clinical setting on an outpatient basis. The patient must prepare for a colonoscopy by following a specific set of directions provided by their physician in advance. Preparation for a colonoscopy involves cleaning out the intestines in order to optimize viewing. Most patients are advised to follow a clear liquid diet for 24 hours prior to their scheduled procedure and required to take a form of laxative in scheduled doses. Physicians strongly emphasize following preparation instructions carefully, because failure to do so can cause results to be inaccurate or the entire procedure to be unsuccessful. Source:

Biopsy and Polyp Removal

Depending on what your doctor finds, other procedures may be performed through the endoscope. These might include taking a biopsy or removing a polyp. These procedures are painless.

There are many ways that a polyp can be removed, and the choice is related to size and shape. Your doctor will choose the technique that is best for you. One option is to use a wire snare device to grasp the polyp, and then remove it with electrical current. After the polyp is removed, it is passed through the endoscope and sent to the laboratory for examination.

After any treatments are finished, the doctor will slowly pull out the endoscope tube through your rectum.

Length of the Procedure

A colonoscopy will usually take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on what is found and if any additional procedures are performed.

What to do After a Colonoscopy

Did you know that after a colonoscopy, you're supposed to restrict certain activities, watch out for certain symptoms, and avoid taking some medications if you've had a polyp removed? After-colonoscopy recommendations vary from patient to patient, so make sure you follow your doctor's instructions to the letter. These are simply general guidelines so people who haven't had a colonoscopy, can get an idea of what's involved in after-colonoscopy care.

Restrict Certain Activities After a Colonoscopy

You will probably be asked to refrain from driving (or operating heavy machinery) until the day after your colonoscopy. Then, unless otherwise instructed, you should be able to return to normal activity. This includes eating and drinking like normal. However, you may be asked to avoid drinking alcohol until 24 hours after the colonoscopy.

Be on the Lookout for Certain Symptoms After a Colonoscopy

Immediately call your doctor if, within 24 hours of the colonoscopy, you have chills or fever, rectal bleeding (more than a tablespoon), swelling or redness at your IV site, or severe abdominal pain or bloating. (Mild abdominal pain and bloating is expected after a colonoscopy.)

More Restrictions for Polyps

If polyps were removed, you may be asked to alter your activities for seven days after the colonoscopy. For example, don't take blood thinners, limit travel, don't lift more than five pounds, and don't go running. Basically, baby yourself or let yourself be babied.

Source: Web MD