Understanding Bowel Preparation

While bowel preparation can be uncomfortable, it is extremely important to the accuracy of your procedure and the plan for your care path. Here is what you need to know as you prepare:

  • What bowel preparation steps are involved before a colonoscopy?

    Your doctor will prescribe the type of bowel prep that is best for you. You will receive specific instructions. In general, here is what you can expect:

    • Your doctor will tell you to change your diet at least one day before your colonoscopy. Usually you will need to limit your diet to clear broth, tea, gelatin desserts, ginger ale, sherbet, and clear fruit juices (the ones you can see through), such as apple juice.
    • You need to avoid gelatin desserts and liquids that are red or purple.
    • It is important to avoid dehydration during bowel prep. Drink more approved fluids than you usually do.
    • Your doctor will tell you exactly when to stop eating and drinking before your colonoscopy.

    Follow carefully all the steps your doctor prescribes.

  • Why is bowel preparation important?

    Many patients feel that the bowel prep is the most difficult part of a colonoscopy. It is important that you try your best to fully complete the prep. After taking the entire bowel prep, you should be passing liquid that is watery or yellow and clear enough to see through. Your bowel must be clean so that your doctor can thoroughly examine your colon and not miss precancerous growths called polyps. If your colon is inadequately cleansed, your doctor may recommend repeating a colonoscopy sooner than if your colon had been properly.

  • What are the types of bowel prep?

    Several types of bowel prep medications are available. Your physician will recommend which prep you should take. You will need to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions about the exact dose and timing of your prep. Some types of prep may be covered by your medical insurance. You’ll want to find out if you have any out-of-pocket costs.

  • What determines the type of preparation I get?

    Your medical condition is the most important factor in deciding which type of bowel prep is best for you. It is best to share your complete medical history with your doctor. Also, bowel obstruction. Let the doctor know if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart, disease, or if you have had any of these diseases in the past. You need to mention any allergies you have to medications to the doctor.

    If you have had difficulty with a bowel prep in the past, be sure to mention this as well. Other factors in choosing the type of prep are the time of the colonoscopy appointment, individual preferences (taste and amount of medication), and out-of-pocket costs.

  • Can I continue to take my current medications?

    Tell your doctor what medications you’re taking, especially aspirin products, arthritis medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners such as warfarin or heparin), clopidogrel, insulin or iron products. Most medications can be continued. Some can interfere with either the prep or the colonoscopy

  • What if I forget to take the medication when I should or remember too late to finish the preparation?

    Call your doctor and ask what to do if you are not able to complete the bowel prep as advised. The procedure might need to be canceled and rescheduled.

  • What are the common side effects of bowel prep?

    You should expect to have multiple loose bowel movements with minimal discomfort while doing the prep. However, some people will have nausea, vomiting, bloating (swelling in the abdomen) or abdominal pain. Serious side effects are uncommon. Your doctor will explain the possible side effects of the prep selected for you.

ASGE – The Source for Colonoscopy and Endoscopy