You will be given instructions in advance from your doctor regarding dietary restrictions and what to do and not do in preparation for your colonoscopy. In general, preparation consists of a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure. This includes liquids that you can see through (no pulp or anything red in color): fat-free broth, strained fruit juice, water, gelatin and popsicles to name a few. The night before, you may be asked to take several types of laxatives. You may NOT eat any solid foods the day of your exam. The colon must be completely emptied of stool for the doctor to get a clear and accurate view. Your procedure may be cancelled and rescheduled if these instructions are not followed.
Can I take my current medications?
Most medications can be continued as usual, but some can interfere with preparation or the procedure. It is important to inform your doctor prior to the procedure about the medications you’re taking, particularly aspirin products, Vitamin E, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, arthritis medications, blood thinner, iron products or insulin. Alert your nurse if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, as you may require them for your colonoscopy as well. Also let the nurse know if you have allergies to certain medications.
What can I expect before, during and after a colonoscopy?
Before the procedure
You will be asked questions regarding your medical history and reason for having a colonoscopy. Please bring your reading glasses so you can sign legal documents. A nurse will then explain the procedure to you, answer any questions you may have and place an intravenous line (IV). Once in the examination room, you will be given pain medication and a mild sedative through your IV to keep you relaxed and comfortable throughout the procedure.
During the procedure
You will lie on your left side or back while the doctor inserts a lubricated colonoscope through the anus and slowly advances through your large intestine to the end of your colon. While the procedure is usually well-tolerated and rarely causes much pain, you may feel pressure, bloating or cramping. The procedure itself usually takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
After the procedure
You will go to the recovery area to rest. A friend or family member is welcome to be with you during your recovery. Expect to stay at least one hour after the procedure before you can go home. During this time, the doctor will explain the results of your colonoscopy.
Once you’ve spoken to the doctor, you and your driver will be given discharge instructions which include diet, medications and activity restrictions. A responsible driver over the age of 18 MUST be available to drive you home as the sedation, which causes forgetfulness, impairs judgment and reflexes. To safely recover from sedation, you need to go home and get something to eat. It is not advisable to stop at a restaurant. Once home, plan to rest the remainder of the day and review your discharge instructions.
What happens if my colonoscopy shows something abnormal?
If your doctor finds polyps during the exam, he or she will most likely remove them. If your doctor feels an area needs further evaluation, he or she might obtain a biopsy. If a polyp or abnormal tissue is found during your colonoscopy that couldn’t be removed, your doctor may recommend subsequent surgery. Depending on your doctor’s recommendations, you won’t need a repeat exam for several years if no abnormalities are found.
Will my colonoscopy be covered by insurance?
Although many private insurance plans cover the costs for colonoscopy as a screening test, you still might be charged for some services. Review your health insurance plan for specific details, including if your doctor is on your insurance company’s list of “in-network” providers. If the doctor is not in the plan’s network, you may have to pay more out-of-pocket. Before you get a screening colonoscopy, ask your insurance company how much (if anything) you should expect to pay for it. Find out if this amount could change based on what’s found during the test. This can help you avoid surprise costs.