So you need to have a colonoscopy…

Many people dread hearing that they need to have a colonoscopy. In fact, the procedure is not all that complicated, but the preparation can be daunting. Knowing what to expect is important and often people actually find bowel symptoms improve by having the purging that occurs while getting ready for their procedure.

When you are asked to have a colonoscopy, your doctor should spend some time going through the arrangements for the procedure. It is important that you have the chance to ask questions and discuss any concerns before you embark on your preparations for colonoscopy. At Sydney Gastrointestinal Specialists, each of the doctors will take time to discuss what is involved and our office staff are often able to answer many common questions too.

Every colonoscopy specialist will have a different “recipe” for bowel preparation for colonoscopy, and different lavage products are used in different circumstances. It is important that you follow the instructions given by your doctor, rather than listening to what your friend or family did or getting confused by different instructions in the medication leaflet in the medication box.

If you usually struggle with constipation, it is worth increasing your regular laxatives the week before your procedure. This makes it easier for the bowel clean out to be effective. In most circumstances, your doctor will also ask you to reduce seeds and fibre for 3 days before your procedure.

The day before your procedure, you will probably be asked to consume only clear fluids – things like water, apple juice, black tea and coffee, jellies and clear soups. Clear fluids do not include milk, cloudy juices like orange juice or any solid food. In some instances, you may actually be able to eat some white foods the morning before our procedure. White foods include eggs, rice bubbles, white bread, rice, cheese, milk, rice crackers, vanilla ice cream, custard or even white chocolate. Read your instructions carefully so you know what your doctor has recommended.

In the evening before your procedure, you will need to take some very powerful laxative medications. These may be in the form of many (MANY) tablets but usually, they are a powder you mix in water and then drink down. There are different flavours. Most people prefer the drink to be chilled and then drunk through a straw. If you feel nauseated, slow down and come back to finish it in half an hour but make sure you take all the preparation.

Expect diarrhoea, lots of diarrhoea! Diarrhoea may start within half an hour but onset is slower in some people. I generally recommend just sitting on the toilet because getting up to go 10 times or more can be exhausting. Take a good book to read or put on some nice music – you will be there for a while. Make sure you have soft toilet paper, or gentle wet wipes and you can apply barrier zinc or nappy rash creams if your bottom is very tender. The diarrhoea will eventually end, often after a few hours and you will be able to leave the bathroom and get to bed. There is a final laxative dose usually 4-6 hours before you go to hospital for your test. This is usually less powerful than the first dose. Keep drinking clear fluids until a few hours before you go to the hospital. If you get a headache, it is usually because you are dehydrated – lemonade or sports drinks might help to rehydrate you but avoid the bright coloured drinks.

Excellent bowel prep for colonoscopy at the time of your procedure will reduce the complication rate and also improve the results. Make sure you follow the written instructions provided by your colonoscopist and if you think your clean out is not going well, a small group of patients actually require an extra dose of laxatives. If you are unsure, please call our helpful office staff and they can give your further instructions.

Once you get to the hospital, well done – you have done the hardest part. You will be given sedation and after a gentle sleep, the procedure will be completed. Colonoscopy is a very important test. Don’t avoid having a test you need because you are scared of the preparation. You may find it is not nearly as hard as you expected.


How to prepare for a colonoscopy?

During your colonoscopy bowel prep it’s important to be on a low fibre diet for colonoscopy for 3 days before your procedure. Wondering what to eat before colonoscopy? On the day before your procedure, you should only consume clear fluids such as water, black tea and coffee, apple juice, jellies and clear soups. In the evening before your procedure, you will need to take some very powerful laxative medications.

What are foods to avoid before colonoscopy procedure?

You should avoid milk, cloudy juices like orange juice or any solid food.

How long does a colonoscopy take?

Usually it takes about 20-40 minutes for the colonoscopy procedure but you will generally be at the hospital for about 3-5 hours.

What to eat after colonoscopy?

After the colonoscopy, you will be given some food and drink at the hospital before you go home. You can eat anything you feel like once you get home – there are no restrictions on your diet. It is normal that most people find their bowel pattern takes a few days to go back to their usual pattern.

How much does a colonoscopy cost?

At Sydney Gastrointestinal Specialists, if you have health insurance your procedure is usually no-gap charged. The anaesthetic costs are usually also no-gap charged. If you do not have insurance, each of the doctors work at a public hospital where your procedure can be done with charges all paid by Medicare, however waiting times for these procedures are often longer.

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