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What you should know

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the inside of your colon (intestine) with a scope. A scope is a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. Polyps or tissue growths may be removed during your colonoscopy.

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 from the scope or polyp removal. You may also have a slow heartbeat, decreased blood pressure, or increased sweating. Your colon may tear due to the increased pressure from the scope and other instruments. This may cause bowel contents to leak out of your 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, your symptoms may get worse. You may have problems eating, digesting food, or having bowel movements. This may lead to other serious medical problems, such as blockage of your colon. Polyps that are not removed may develop into cancer.

Getting Ready

The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • You may need any of the following to help empty your colon:
    • A clear liquid diet or a bowel prep may be started 1 to 4 days before your procedure. Clear liquids include plain gelatin, unsweetened fruit juices, clear soup, or broth. A bowel prep is a drink that helps to clean out your colon.
    • Do not eat foods that are difficult to digest. These include fruits, vegetables, cereal, nuts, peas, beans, popcorn, or tomatoes. Ask your healthcare provider 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 night before your procedure:

  • 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 healthcare provider's directions.
  • You may be given a bowel prep medicine to drink. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about this medicine.

The day of your procedure:

  • Bowel preparation:
    • Do not eat or drink anything on the morning of your procedure. Your colon may not be seen clearly if it is not totally empty.
    • You may need an additional enema the morning of your procedure.
    • You may also be asked to drink an additional 4 to 8 (8 ounce) cups of the bowel prep liquid.
  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • You will be given medicine to help you relax. You will lie on your left side and raise one or both knees toward your chest. Your healthcare provider will examine your anus and use a finger to check your rectum. You may need another enema if your bowel is not empty. The scope will be lubricated and placed into your anus. It will then be passed through your rectum and into your colon. Water or air will be put into your colon to help clean or expand it. This is done so your healthcare provider can see your colon clearly.
  • Tissue samples may be taken from the walls of your bowel and sent to a lab for tests. If you have a polyp, your healthcare provider will pass a wire loop through the scope and use it to hold the polyp. The polyp is then burned or cut off the wall of your colon. Removed polyps are sent to a lab for tests. Pictures of your colon may be taken during the procedure. The scope will be removed when the procedure is done.

After your procedure:

You may pass gas after your procedure. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be able to go home or be taken 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 have blood in your bowel movement.
  • You are not able to have a bowel movement.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Colonoscopy (Precare)

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