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Colonoscopy: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

After you have a colonoscopy, you will stay at the clinic for 1 to 2 hours until the medicines wear off. Then you can go home. But you will need to arrange for a ride. Your doctor will tell you when you can eat and do your other usual activities.

Your doctor will talk to you about when you will need your next colonoscopy. Your doctor can help you decide how often you need to be checked. This will depend on the results of your test and your risk for colorectal cancer.

After the test, you may be bloated or have gas pains. You may need to pass gas. If a biopsy was done or a polyp was removed, you may have streaks of blood in your stool (feces) for a few days. Problems such as heavy rectal bleeding may not occur until several weeks after the test. This isn't common. But it can happen after polyps are removed.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Avoid any activity that takes a lot of energy like hard exercise or heavy lifting. Your healthcare team will talk to you about when you can go back to your usual activity.

Diet

  • You can start to eat your usual diet after your colonoscopy, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.
  • Unless your doctor has told you not to, drink plenty of fluids. This helps to replace the fluids that were lost during the colon prep.
  • Do not drink alcohol for at least 8 hours after your procedure.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • 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 and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • If polyps were removed or a biopsy was done during the test, your doctor may tell you not to take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines for a few days. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

Other instructions

  • For your safety, do not drive, operate machinery, or power tools for at least 8 hours after getting sedation. Your doctor may tell you not to drive or operate machinery until the day after your test.
  • Do not sign legal documents or make major decisions for at least 8 hours after getting sedation. The sedation medicine can make it hard for you to fully understand what you are agreeing to.

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 or nurse call line 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness) or feel like you will faint.
  • You pass a lot of blood from your rectum.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better, even after passing gas.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have blood in your stools.
  • You have a fever (over 38°C or 100.4°F).
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line (811 in Alberta) if you have any problems or questions.

Where can you learn more?

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

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