Colonoscopy preparation

03 April 2018

Helen Culling of Spire Norwich Hospital discusses the steps you will need to take to prepare for a colonoscopy with Dr Simon Chan, Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Colney based private hospital.

The thought of a colonoscopy is likely to make anyone shudder. However the procedure could be lifesaving as it’s used as a method to detect possible signs of colon cancer.

Dr Chan answers some common questions about the procedure.

First of all, what is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an examination of the lining of the colon (large bowel) using a thin flexible, tube-like telescope called a colonoscope. This is carefully passed through the back passage and into the colon. A colonoscopy is useful for finding out what is causing symptoms, or as a check-up for certain bowel conditions.

During the procedure, your doctor may take one or more biopsies (samples of the lining of the colon) for examination in a laboratory. It’s also possible to remove polyps (small lumps of tissue that may be found on the colon lining). Colonoscopy is routinely done as an outpatient or day-case, with no overnight stay. It’s usually performed under sedation to help ensure that you are relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. After sedation, most people have very little memory of the test.

How should patients prepare for a colonoscopy?

For a doctor to perform a colonoscopy and see the lining of your colon, it has to be completely empty. If the preparation is not good enough polyps and lesions can be missed, it might take longer to perform the procedure or it might have to be rescheduled for another time.

If you normally take medication (e.g tablets for blood pressure), continue to take this as usual, unless your doctor specifically tells you not to. If you are unsure about taking your medication once the colonoscopy has been booked, then the patient should contact the hospital, or consultant’s secretary for advice.

What changes to your diet, if any, are advised before a colonoscopy?

Your diet before the colonoscopy is an integral part of the procedure. A few days before the procedure, we recommend patients start eating a low-fibre diet, which will be easier to digest. White bread, lean meats, well cooked vegetables are the kind of food you should be eating. Try to avoid whole grains, fatty foods, nuts and raw vegetables before the procedure.

The day before the colonoscopy you won’t be able to have any solid foods. You will be able to have clear liquids so stock up with broths, coffee, tea, soft drinks and clear juice (apple, pineapple).

Make sure you drink plenty of liquids before and after your bowel prep, as well as after the procedure.

What is ‘bowel prep’?

Your doctor will give you a laxative that you will have to take before your colonoscopy. The laxative will come with clear and detailed instructions on how to take it and when. Usually you will take it the evening or the afternoon before the procedure. Depending on the type of laxative, the effect can be powerful, so make sure you are close to a toilet and, if you work, book the day off, as you will need to be as comfortable as possible.

If you have children or elderly people under your care, ask a friend or family member for help as you will be indisposed for a while. Also wear loose clothing and be near the toilet, as you will be more comfortable once the effect of the laxative kicks in.

Stock up with comfort products like moist and medicated wipes, creams and lotions prior to your prep. It will make the situation more comfortable for you.

For further information on colonoscopies and how to prepare for them, or to make a private appointment with Dr Simon Chan, Consultant Gastroenterologist, contact one of the team members at Spire Norwich Hospital on 01603 255 614. Further details regarding Dr Simon Chan can be found on his consultant profile at

All surgery carries an element of risk and the content of this page is provided for general information only.  It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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