What is it?
Colonoscopy is a exam that looks at the lining of the colon (large intestine, or
large bowel). A colonoscope (thin flexible tube with a tiny camera in it) is
Why is it done?
This exam is done for many reasons. It is done to look for causes of
unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and
weight loss. Ulcers, polyps, inflammation and tumors can be seen. Biopsies
(removal of small pieces of tissue and growths such as polyps) can be taken
through the colonoscope, for later exam under a microscope.
What is the preparation?
At least one week before your/your child’s exam, tell your doctor:
If you/your child take any medications (including vitamins, herbals and over the counter
medications). Medication for diabetes or other medications may need to be adjusted before your
exam. Iron products must be stopped 7 days before the exam.
If you/your child take aspirin or aspirin-like medicine (Advil®, Motrin®, etc),
Coumadin®, Plavix®, vitamin E, ginko biloba or other “blood thinners”. These
medications may need to be stopped for as long as 1 week before your exam.
If you/your child have any allergies to medication or to latex.
Your colon must be empty and clean for the exam to be accurate and complete. You will
be given written instructions on how to prepare for the exam. You may be asked to do one or
more of the following: drink a cleansing liquid, take a laxative and/or enema, and drink a clear
liquid diet for 1 to 2 days before the exam. Follow the bowel preparation instructions
carefully and completely, or the exam may have to be rescheduled.
Arrange for a responsible adult (more than 18 years old) to take you home after the exam. This
exam will not be done if you do not have someone to take you home.
Children must come with their parent or legal guardian. Every parent must bring
identification. If you have custody of the child, please bring custody/guardianship papers on the
day of the exam.
Some people with certain health conditions may need antibiotics for this exam. Your doctor will
tell you if you need them.
On the day of the exam:
Take your usual medications, unless told otherwise.
Bring a list of all your medications (including vitamins, herbals and over-the-counter
medications). This list must include the medication name, strength (mg, gm, units, etc), dose
(how much/many you take), frequency (how often you take it) and why you take it.
Your doctor will fully explain the procedure and possible risks. After answering any
questions you may have, the doctor will ask you to sign a consent form.
How is the exam done?
Before the exam begins, an intravenous (IV) catheter is placed into one of your arm veins. You
will be given medication through the IV to make you comfortable during the exam. You may also
receive an antibiotic to prevent infection.
You will lie on your side or back. The doctor will insert the colonoscope (‘scope’) into your
rectum and guide it slowly into the large bowel. Air is put in through the scope, to help the doctor
see inside more clearly. As the tube is guided in then out, the lining of the colon is examined.
The camera in the scope lets the doctor see the inside of your colon on a video screen. Pictures
can also be taken with the camera. During the exam the nurse may press on your abdomen.
This helps the scope move into your colon. You may be asked to turn and take a different
position on the exam table. The doctor can pass small instruments through the scope to take
biopsy samples. You will not feel this.
The exam takes about 15 to 60 minutes.
How will I feel during and after the exam?
You will be sleepy during and for a few hours after the exam. You may feel pressure, bloating or
cramping at times during the exam. You may pass gas when you feel the urge unless you are
told not to do so. You may also have some gas pains or cramps during and after the exam. This
is normal and will go away in a few hours. You may see a little blood in your bowel movements
for the first 24 hours after the exam. Some patients do not have a bowel movement for up to 2
days after colonoscopy.
What else do I need to know?
After the exam the doctor will explain the results to you. You will be given written instructions
about your follow up care before you go home, to help you remember what was discussed.
If you are having this exam as an outpatient, you must have someone take you home.
Medications used during the procedure may cause you to be dizzy, lightheaded or every tired.
Even if you feel alert your judgment and reflexes may be impaired for the rest of the day.
Most people can restart their usual diet after the exam.
Talk with your doctor before restarting your usual medications.
It takes about 1 week to receive the results of any biopsies done. It is important that you keep
your follow up appointments.
Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have:
. Severe abdominal pain
. Fever higher than 101° F or chills
. Rectal bleeding lasting longer than a day or a large amount of bleeding.
This information is brief and general. It should not be the only source of your information on this
health care topic. It is not to be used or relied on for diagnosis or treatment. It does not take the
place of instructions from your doctor. Talk to your health care providers before making a health