Bowel preparation (or bowel prep) empties and cleans out your large intestine (colon). Bowel prep is done before tests that look inside your colon, such as a colonoscopy. These tests look for small growths (called polyps), cancer, or other problems like bleeding. The colon has to be empty and clean so the doctor can see problems.
For many people, the bowel prep is worse than the test. The liquid you may have to drink can taste bad, and you may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. You may also spend a lot of time in the washroom.
But it is very important to do the prep exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you do not, the doctor will not be able to see the entire lining of your colon. This may mean that you have to repeat the test and will have to do the prep again.
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.
Preparing for this procedure can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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