Colonoscopy has long been the gold standard in colon cancer screening. Over the past decade, advances in technology and surgical technique have significantly reduced the level of discomfort involved. And yet, there is still one element of the procedure that intimidates many prospective patients: the exacting preparation routine.
Here, the experienced Atlanta-area doctors of Piedmont Colorectal Associates review the basics of at-home colonoscopy preparation, and suggest practical ways to tolerate the gastrointestinal side effects.
Preparation is by far the most time-consuming part of colonoscopy. On average, patients spend about three hours at a hospital or surgical center for the procedure, but at least five times that amount with the preparatory regimen. These preliminary steps are extremely important, however, as a clear colon is necessary for your doctor to achieve an unobstructed view of the interior surface of the colon. This is vital, because even the smallest polyp or anomaly can become life-threatening if not discovered and treated.
Preparation involves dramatically restricting your diet and drinking the prep liquid at prescribed intervals. Dietary changes start several days before the procedure. The menu consists of low-fiber foods; no grains, nuts, or raw fruits and vegetables. All solid foods are banned for the day before the procedure; only liquids such as tea, Jell-O, broth or bouillon are allowed. You must not eat or drink anything within two hours of the colonoscopy.
Typically a patient begins drinking the prep liquid the evening before the procedure. Make sure you follow the directions to the letter. You certainly don’t want to have to repeat the process again, if it was not done properly the first time.
If you find the prep liquid unpleasant tasting, you can add flavoring, such as lime, ginger or Kool-Aid. Refrigerated liquid is less likely to trigger a gag reflex, and a straw may also be helpful as a way to shield your taste buds. Some patients hold their nose while drinking the liquid, or suck on hard candy or a lemon slice after each cup.
The result of drinking large quantities of the prep liquid is what one medical journal terms “high-volume, high-velocity diarrhea.” You will definitely want to stay close to the toilet when this begins. Sensitive wipes can reduce discomfort, as the amount of toilet paper you would need to use may abrade the skin.
For more information on colonoscopy, or to schedule a personal consultation in Atlanta or Stockbridge with one of our experienced doctors, contact Piedmont Colorectal Associates today.