Most of the anxiety and nervousness surrounding the colonoscopy procedure stems from fear of the necessary preparation, which consists of a thorough colon cleanse. However, armed with the right information and expectations, you should have nothing to worry about.
We talked to patients and physicians about why the colonoscopy bowel preparation is so important, and they gave us some valuable tips and advice to ensure comfort and preparedness going into your colonoscopy procedure.
Why do I need to cleanse my colon before a colonoscopy?
The bowel preparation is perhaps the most important factor in determining the success of a colonoscopy. Without adequate cleansing, it becomes more likely that your doctor will miss polyps or lesions, the procedure will take longer than expected, or it may need to be repeated or rescheduled altogether.
“It is critical that patients perform a good bowel prep before the procedure to facilitate a complete and thorough exam," says Dr. Anna Toker, a colorectal surgeon at USMD. "Failure to do so will not only lead to false confidence if nothing is found, it will also lead to repeat exams in attempt to get a better view which increases the cost to both the patient and society as a whole."
"No one wants to do the bowel prep, but it is absolutely critical the patient is completely clean for the exam. Furthermore, as a doctor, it is not fun to dig through an unprepped colon. I ask people to help a sister out [and] do the prep!”
What does the bowel prep entail?
You'll need to stop eating solid foods the day before your colonoscopy. Starting the evening before the procedure, you will take an oral substance that triggers bowel-clearing diarrhea. The particular instructions for your bowel prep depend on the substance prescribed, the time of your colonoscopy, and any prior experience you have had with a colon cleanse.
Georgia Hurst, founder of IHaveLynchSyndrome.com, undergoes a colonoscopy every year. She offered some useful tips on making the best of the prep and procedure:
- "Try and schedule your colonoscopy for first thing in the morning. You may feel dehydrated, nauseated, and hungry after the completing the prep and therefore you will want to get the scope over with as soon as possible."
- "Keep your meals light a couple of days before your colonoscopy. It will make the prep process much easier."
- "There is a bowel prep called Prepopik made by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and many people find it to be far more tolerable than other preps. Its taste is comparable to Tang and you do not need to drink an obscene amount of it for the desired effects. You are only required to consume 10 ounces of the prep, followed by 64 additional ounces of other clear fluids."
So, what's all the fuss about?
We also asked a few physicians about how they handle patient apprehension when it comes to bowel prep before a colonoscopy. Dr. Jeff Bullock, a gastroenterologist in San Antonio, Texas, says, "I am frank and tell them that no doubt the prep is the worst part, but most people don't have any problem with it. Usually they have heard some horror story from someone else.”
“One funny anecdote I have occurred last week. I saw a husband and wife in follow up after their colonoscopies. He had gone first, the week prior to hers. She told me that he had her 'a little freaked out,' listening to him tell her how bad it was. Then she did it and it was easy. She laughed that as usual she should have expected him to be a little 'whimpy' when it comes to that kind of stuff.”
Although the prep may seem daunting, it's a brief and relatively painless measure you must take in order to ensure the success of your potentially life-saving colonoscopy. Talk with your doctor about the options best suited for you!