Colonoscopy: Before Your Procedure

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What is a colonoscopy?

Picture of normal colon and colon polyp

A colonoscopy is a test that lets a doctor look inside your colon. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube called a colonoscope to look for problems. These include small growths called polyps, cancer, or bleeding.

During the test, the doctor can take samples of tissue that can be checked for cancer or other problems. This is called a biopsy. The doctor can also take out polyps.

Before the test, you will need to stop eating solid foods. You also will drink a liquid or take a tablet that cleans out your colon. This helps your doctor be able to see inside your colon during the test.

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

What happens before the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Before the procedure

  • Follow your doctor's directions about when to stop eating solid foods and drink only clear liquids. You can drink water, clear juices, clear broths, flavoured ice pops, and gelatin (such as Jell-O). Do not eat or drink anything red or purple. This includes grape juice and grape-flavoured ice pops. It also includes fruit punch and cherry gelatin.
  • Drink the "colon prep" liquid as your doctor tells you. You will want to stay home, because the liquid will make you go to the washroom a lot. Your stools will be loose and watery. It is very important to drink all of the liquid. If you have problems drinking it, call your doctor. Some doctors may have you take a tablet rather than drink a liquid.
  • Do not eat any solid foods after you drink the colon prep.
  • Stop drinking clear liquids 6 to 8 hours before the test.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the doctor's office or hospital

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep.
  • You will lie on your back or your side with your knees drawn up toward your belly. The doctor will gently put a gloved finger into your anus. Then the doctor puts the scope in and moves it into your colon. The scope goes in easily because it is lubricated.
  • The doctor may also use small tools to take tissue samples for a biopsy or to remove polyps. This does not hurt.
  • The test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. But it may take longer. It depends on what is found and what is done.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You are having trouble with the bowel prep.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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

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Current as of: August 9, 2016