Preparing for a colonoscopy
A colonoscopy allows the specialist (usually called a gastroenterologist) to examine the lining of the bowel wall, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine.
Your specialist will insert a long, flexible tube with a light at the tip into your rectum and slowly guide it into your bowel. The instrument is called a colonoscope. The instrument transmits an image of the inside of the colon onto a television or computer monitor, so the specialist can carefully examine the lining of the bowel. The instrument is flexible, so the specialist can advance it around the curves of your bowel.
How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?
Before a colonoscopy, let your doctor know about any special medical conditions you have, including:
- Lung conditions.
- Heart conditions.
- Allergies to any medications.
- If you have diabetes or take medications that may affect blood clotting. Adjustments to these medications may be required before the colonoscopy.
Never stop taking any medication without first consulting your doctor.
You may need to take antibiotics before the colonoscopy if you:
- Have an artificial heart valve.
- Have ever been told you need to take antibiotics before a dental or surgical procedure.
There may be some diet or fluid restrictions before your colonoscopy, but this will vary according to your doctor's instructions. You may be asked to limit or eliminate solid foods for a few days before the test. You will also be asked to take laxatives by mouth to clean out the colon.
Along with the dietary changes, your bowel must be further cleansed in order for colonoscopy to be successful. You will usually receive 1 or 2 enemas before the procedure. Try to hold the enema solution for at least 5 minutes before releasing it.
You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the examination.
You will need to remain at the hospital or medical centre for one to two hours until the sedative wears off.
Make sure you arrange for someone to drive you home after a colonoscopy. Because you receive sedating medication during the procedure, it is unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery for about eight hours after the procedure.