What to Expect Before Your Colonoscopy

Posted on: 18 January 2023


Colonoscopies are useful for identifying a number of conditions. Your doctor may request one if you're showing signs of bowel cancer, Crohn's or polyps. The procedure involves inserting a thin camera to look at your colon and take biopsies. To ensure the procedure is successful, there are a number of steps you'll need to take first.

Adjusting Your Diet

When you receive a letter notifying you of your appointment, you'll usually be advised on making adjustments to your diet. Usually, this means eating only plain foods during the two days before the procedure takes place. You can eat plain chicken, pasta, rice, and bread, but you should try to avoid sauces and heavy flavours. Your letter should also detail when your gastroenterologist expects you to stop eating. If your appointment takes place first thing in the morning, this usually means avoiding food after midnight the night before.

Clearing Your Bowels

The success of your colonoscopy will depend on you fully clearing your bowels before it takes place. Usually, this means taking a laxative containing sodium picosulfate. Sodium picosulfate is an especially strong laxative, and your doctor will likely advise that you should remain at home after taking it. You'll need to remain close to a toilet, and you may experience some cramping sensations. When taking sodium picosulfate, which may come under a brand name, ensure you read the instructions carefully before taking it.

Managing Sedation

You won't need a general anaesthetic for a colonoscopy to take place. However, many people do prefer to use some form of sedation so they can relax. Your gastroenterologist may offer Entonox, which is also known as gas and air. Some also provide midazolam, which allows you to enter a state of sedation that doesn't require airway support. Depending on the strength of the midazolam your doctor provides, you may not remember some details of the procedure afterwards. Being unable to remember some details is a normal reaction, so don't worry if that happens. It's important to note that if you do use sedation, you'll need someone to drive you home.

To manage your expectations, it's also useful to discuss timelines with your doctor. Some doctors can provide a brief overview of what they believe is happening based on what they see. You may need to wait several weeks for a biopsy, though. As such, any treatment arising from your colonoscopy may not start for a short while.

For more information about undergoing a colonoscopy, contact a doctor.