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Bowel Preparation: Before Your Child's Surgery

Location of the stomach, small intestine, and colon

What is bowel preparation?

Bowel preparation (or bowel prep) is a way to make sure that your child's bowels are empty before he or she has surgery. It's done to make sure that your child doesn't have any problems from infection. It is very important if your child has bowel surgery. But it may also be done before other surgery in the belly or before a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

There are different types of bowel prep. Your child may need to drink a liquid that makes him or her have to go to the bathroom a lot. Or you may give your child an enema. Your doctor will tell you what kind of prep your child needs.

Bowel prep can be uncomfortable. Your child may spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Bowel prep can take up to 12 hours, depending on the method your child uses. This includes the time needed to drink the medicine and finish clearing the bowels.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

Before the surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • If your child is given a liquid bowel prep, have your child follow the doctor's instructions for taking it. Some people think it tastes bad. But mixing it with a sports drink like Gatorade can make it taste better. You may also want to give your child lemon drops or other hard candies to suck on after drinking it. The liquid will make your child have diarrhea. Your child's bowel is empty when the fluid that comes out is clear.
  • If you are told to give your child a Fleet enema, follow the directions on the package. The enema solution is in a plastic bottle with a long, narrow tip. You put the tip of the bottle into your child's anus. Then you squeeze the liquid into the rectum. Have your child hold the liquid for a few minutes. Then your child will use the toilet. Your doctor may have you follow your child's enema with a liquid bowel prep.
  • In some cases, your child may be given antibiotics. These medicines lower the chance of infection. Give these medicines to your child exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for surgery.
  • Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.