How to prepare for a colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is performed to examine inside the large intestine for any abnormality. With the patient under a general anesthetic, a gastroenterologist or surgeon inserts a thin, flexible tube, with a camera attached, through the anus into the colon. The surgeon is then able to examine the inside of the colon by watching a monitor and remove any small protrusions (known as polpys) during the procedure.

Colonoscopies are used to find the cause of disorders such as the presence of blood in a bowel motion, unusual anaemia, and chronic lower intestinal pain. Health authorities suggest a colonoscopy for people over the age of 50 every five years to check for the presence of polpys. Polyps can occur in the colon and although they are usually benign can develop into malignant tumors.


Step 1

Arrange for the colonoscopy

Ring or visit the hospital or day surgery where the surgeon or gastroenterologist will perform the colonoscopy and arrange or confirm the procedure date. The hospital or surgery will request details of your health insurance and inform you of any payment that may be necessary. They may suggest you ring them the day before the procedure to learn your admission time.

Arrange for someone to pick you up after the procedure and be with you for the remainder of the day. You should tell your employer you will be on sick leave for the day of the colonoscopy, the day before to take preparation, and possibly the day after to recover fully from the anesthetic.

Step 2

Prepare for the diet

You will be given a list of permitted and not permitted foods and drinks. Check your pantry and buy the supplies you need for the diet. Take note of any medications you will need to stop taking prior to the procedure and any special instructions if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes. Purchase the prescribed bowel cleansing preparation and become familiar with the accompanying instructions.

Step 3

Follow the instructions

Follow the prescribed diet and bowel cleansing preparation directions as instructed. Deviating from it may mean the surgeon will not get a clear view of your colon and you may have to repeat the procedure. Keep yourself hydrated with water and the recommended fluids.

Step 4

The day of the procedure

Give yourself plenty of time to shower and arrive at the hospital or surgery before your admission time. Wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes. Remove any nail polish and do not wear any make-up. The only jewellery you should wear is a wedding band. Take with you the admission form if you have one, any previous x-rays, your health insurance details, and any medications you take daily. Leave your wallet, watch, cell phone, and any other valuables with whoever will be taking you home. The procedure usually takes about half an hour followed by two to three hours in recovery.

Step 5

After the colonoscopy

After the procedure you will wake up in the recovery room where the nurse will monitor your blood pressure and pulse. You may also be connected to a drip to help replace any fluid lost through diarrhea and fasting. When you are fully awake and your vital signs are stable, you will be given something light to eat and drink. The gastroenterologist or surgeon will see you and explain the results of the test and ask you to make a follow up appointment. The Discharge Nurse will give you a discharge summary and any post-procedure instructions. Your family member or friend will then be asked to drive you home. Once home you should spend the rest of the day quietly resting. You should not drive or travel alone, sign any documents, drink alcohol, or smoke for 24 hours following the anesthetic.

Step 6

The follow up

Keep your follow up appointment even if no abnormality was found during the examination. At this time the surgeon will explain about your test results and if any further examination, medication or treatment is required. Your surgeon may also recommend you have a precautionary colonoscopy two to five years.

Things Needed
• Health insurance card or arrangements to pay any fee
• The prescribed preparation kit
• The recommended diet
• The allowed foods and drinks
• Someone to pick you up from the hospital

Tips & Warnings
• Be sure to inform your doctor of any medications your are taking
• Tell your doctor and the hospital or surgery if you have any allergies
• Follow the prescribed diet exactly
• Drink the recommended amount of fluid
• Take the bowel cleansing preparation as instructed
• Be prepared for loose bowel motions after taking the preparation


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