A colonoscopy is a routine procedure. Some advanced planning, however, including medication that will thoroughly cleanse your colon, is important to a successful procedure.
What follows is a general timeline for what you can expect in the days leading up to your procedure. This is for informational purposes only. Your doctor will give you specific instructions before your procedure. Please follow your doctors' orders.
Colonoscopy Preparation Timeline
1-2 weeks before your colonoscopy:
- Speak with a nurse in pre-admission testing to give your medical history and medications list
- List any allergies and all prescription medications and non-prescription products (over-the counter, anti-inflammatory, herbal, vitamins, etc.) you are taking. Bring these lists with you on the day of the colonoscopy
- Purchase the non-prescription pharmacy items you will need for your colon cleansing. Depending on your doctor's specific orders, these may include: Laxative tablets, Miralax, 1 bottle of Magnesium Citrate (non-colored), and at least 64-ounces of Gatorade (no red flavors).
- Arrange for a ride to and from your appointment. If you do not have a driver, the procedure will have to be canceled. By law you will not be allowed to drive yourself home due to the anesthesia.
Five days prior to your colonoscopy:
- Stop taking iron and vitamins with iron
- Read and familiarize yourself with the preparation instructions provided by your doctor
- If you are taking a blood thinner, it will need to be stopped 5 days prior to your procedure. Talk to your prescribing doctor about whether you need to take a replacement for it.
Two days prior to your colonoscopy:
- Review and plan your dietary needs for the next two days.
- Confirm your ride.
- Eat well-balanced meals but try to avoid corn, fruits & vegetables with seeds and artificial oils.
One day prior to your colonoscopy:
- Begin your clear liquid diet when you get up in the morning and continue it all day long.
- Guidelines for the clear liquid diet include: any juice that you can see through and has no pulp is acceptable as long as it is not red in color. Good choices are white cranberry, apple, white grape, strained lemonade, limeade and orange drink. Soups: clear bullion, chicken broth, vegetable broth, beef broth or consomme Beverages: Tea, coffee (without cream/milk), Kool-Aid, carbonated beverages, Gatorade. You may add sugar to coffee and tea but not milk or creamer Desert: Italian ices, popsicles, Jell-O and hard candy with the exception of red flavors. No solid food of any kind. Throughout the day, make sure to drink at least 8 glasses (2 quarts) of fluids such as nutrition water or Gatorade that does not contain caffeine or alcohol
- 1:00 PM: Take two laxative tablets by mouth with any clear liquid of your choice.
- 3:00 PM: Mix the Miralax in 64 ounces of Gatorade. Shake the solution until the Miralax is dissolved. Drink eight-ounces every 15-20 minutes until the entire solution is gone.
- Diarrhea may begin within 1–2 hours after the solution is completed and continue for several hours
- You may continue to have clear liquids until midnight. After midnight, do not eat or drink anything unless you are instructed to take your medications with a sip of water.
- A nurse from the Endoscopy Department will call you with arrival instructions and confirm your arrival time
The day of your colonoscopy:
- Be sure to take any blood pressure or heart medications the morning of the test with a sip of water as instructed by the nurse
- Bring a list of all prescription medications and non-prescription products you are taking, plus a list of any medications you are allergic to.
After the test you may feel very sleepy. This may last for several hours. After about 30 minutes you should be awake enough to walk and will be able to return home. You may eat once you get home and may want to just rest and relax. If a biopsy is done or a polyp is removed, you may have traces of blood in your stool (feces) for a few days. Your doctor may instruct you to not take aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for 7 to 14 days.
As with every medical procedure, there is a small chance that problems could arise from a colonoscopy. The scope or a small tool may tear the lining of the colon or cause bleeding. After the test, call your doctor immediately if you:
- Experience heavy rectal bleeding
- Have severe belly pain
- Develop a fever
- Feel very dizzy
- Begin vomiting
- Develop a swollen and firm belly