What you should know

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the inside of your colon (large intestine) using a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. During a colonoscopy, caregivers may remove a small amount of tissue from the colon for a biopsy. A biopsy can help diagnose problems with your colon.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • You may have pain or bleeding as the scope is passed inside your bowel. You may also have a slow heartbeat, decreased blood pressure, or increased sweating, or faint. Your colon may get perforated (torn) due to the increased pressure from the scope and air. This may cause bowel contents to leak out of the colon and into your abdomen. If this happens, you will need to stay in the hospital and have surgery on your colon.

  • Without this procedure, diseases may not be diagnosed and proper treatment may be delayed. The signs and symptoms you have may continue and worsen. You may have problems eating, digesting food, or moving your bowel. This may lead to other serious medical problems, such as a blockage of your colon.

Getting Ready

The week before your procedure:

  • Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your procedure. Do not drive yourself home.

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.

  • Tell your caregiver if you have had other similar procedures before and when they were done. These may include a past colonoscopy, a barium enema (lower GI procedure), or a sigmoidoscopy.

  • Tell your caregiver if you have other diseases, such as severe inflammation of the bowel or kidney problems. Certain medicines used to empty your bowel may not be good for you.

  • You may need to have blood, urine, or stool tests. Ask your caregiver for more information about these tests. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

    • A clear liquid diet or a diet that helps to clean out your colon may be started 1 to 4 days before your procedure. Clear liquids may include plain gelatin, unsweetened fruit juices, clear soup, or broth.

    • Do not eat foods with residue or fiber that are not easy to digest. These include fruits, vegetables, cereal, nuts, peas, beans, popcorn, or tomatoes. Ask your caregiver for a list of foods to avoid.

    • Increase the amount of water you are drinking. Make sure you drink 8 to 10 (8-ounce) cups of liquid, especially the day before your procedure.

The day before your procedure:

Your bowel needs to be empty before your procedure. This will help the scope to pass through your colon easier and show better pictures. Your caregiver will give you directions for emptying your bowel.

The night before your procedure:

  • Your caregiver may ask you to do one or more of the following:

    • You may need a laxative or a liquid medicine called an enema. An enema uses warm water that is put into your rectum to help empty your bowel. Follow your caregiver's directions.

    • You may be given a bowel prep medicine to drink. Follow directions given by your caregiver. Ask your caregiver for more information about this medicine.

The day of your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.

  • Bowel preparation:

    • Do not eat or drink anything on the morning of your procedure. The images of your colon may not be seen clearly if it is not totally empty.

    • You may need an additional enema, using warm water, the morning of your procedure.

    • You may also be asked to drink an additional 4 to 8 cups (8-ounce cups) of the bowel prep medicine.

  • Ask your caregiver before you take any medicine on the day of your procedure. This includes insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring all the medicines you are taking, including the pill bottles, with you to the hospital.

  • Caregivers may insert an IV into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV, you may be given liquids and medicine.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal piece of paper (consent form). It gives your caregiver permission to do the procedure. It also explains the problems that may happen and your choices. Be sure all your questions have been answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

  • You will be taken to the room where the colonoscopy will be done. You will be given medicine to help you relax. You will be asked to lie on your left side and will need to raise one or both knees toward your chest. Your lower body will be covered with a sheet. Your caregiver will examine your anus and use a finger to perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) to check your rectum. He may feel for your prostate if you are a man. If your bowel is not totally empty, your caregiver may give you another enema.

  • During your procedure, the colonoscope will be lubricated and gently placed into your anus. It will then be passed through the rectum and into the colon. Your caregiver will also put water or air into the colon to help clean or expand it. Tissue samples may be taken from the walls of the bowel and sent to a lab for tests. He will also remove stool or polyps (growths) using small tools. Your caregiver may take pictures of the inside of your colon during the procedure. When the procedure is finished, the scope will be slowly removed.

After your procedure:

You may pass some air that is left in your colon. If a sample was taken from inside your colon, you may see blood in your BM. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be allowed to change clothes and go home. You will need someone to drive you home. Do not drive home alone. If your caregiver wants you to stay in the hospital, you will be taken back to your hospital room.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your appointment on time.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have constipation and the medicines are not helping to empty your bowel.

  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You are not able to eat or drink, or you are urinating less or not at all.

  • You have blood in your bowel movement (BM).

  • You are not able to have a BM.

  • Your abdomen becomes tender and hard.

  • Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.

  • Your vomit has blood or bile in it.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Colonoscopy (Precare)