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Preparing for a Colonoscopy

How to Prepare | What to Expect On Arrival | What to Expect After | For More Information

Colonoscopy is a diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedure that examines a patient’s rectum and large intestine. The entire colon is examined using a lighted flexible tube that is inserted into the anus and advanced through the colon to the cecum (junction of the colon and small intestine). This procedure is used in the diagnosis of colon cancer, colon polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease), hemorrhoids, diverticulosis and other problems related to the colon.

Physicians recommend that both men and women begin receiving a colonoscopy every 10 years at the age of 50. However, those with a high risk, such as a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, may be recommended to begin having a colonoscopy from an earlier age and on a more frequent basis.

How to Prepare for Colonoscopy

  • Your physician or physician's office will give you instructions as to which bowel preparation you will need to clean out your colon. You may also have diet and/or medication restrictions the week prior to the exam. Please consume the entire preparation that you have been prescribed.
  • If you have not received the instructions on how to prep for a colonoscopy two weeks prior to the exam, please contact the physician who will be performing the procedure.
  • Plan to take the day off from work for the exam.
  • Plan to have someone you know drive you home. Since the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation, you will be instructed not to drive a car or return to work until the following day.
  • Contact the physician and inform her or him of any special needs, medical conditions, latex allergy or current medications you are taking.
  • The GI Lab staff will attempt to contact you the day prior to your procedure to answer any questions you may have.
  • It is strongly recommended that you avoid eating seeds, nuts, and corn for one week prior to the procedure.
  • You may not consume food or liquid (this includes water) after midnight on the day prior to your procedure unless directed by your physician.  Sips of water with medications are acceptable.

What to Expect Once You Arrive for Colonoscopy

  • You will be expected to arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time.
  • You may have an intravenous line placed, since the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation.
  • You will be asked if there is a responsible person to drive you home after the exam.
  • The procedure usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • During the exam, there is often a feeling of cramping, bloating, or pressure in the abdominal area.
  • Your physician may give you medication to help you relax and better tolerate the exam.
  • Patients usually lie on their left side or on their back during the exam.
  • During the procedure the physician may take biopsies (small tissue samples) or remove polyps (growths on the lining of the colon).

What to Expect After a Colonoscopy

  • After the procedure is completed, you will recover for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Since the colon is expanded with air during the procedure, you are encouraged to pass flatus (gas) during the recovery period.
  • Once you have met the discharge criteria, the physician will discuss with you the preliminary findings.
  • After the recovery period, patients are able to go home and usually eat right away.
  • Diet, activity, and/or medication restrictions may be given to certain patients depending on the findings of the exam.
  • Patients are provided written discharge instructions to take home.

For More Information

Colonoscopy is available at all of our GI lab locations. For more information on preparation, the procedure and what to expect after a colonoscopy, or to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, please call 888.364.6400.

NorthShore offers interpretive language services for non-English speaking patients. A request for this no-cost service should be made at the time of appointment scheduling.