BALTIMORE, Md. — Being prepared for a colonoscopy can make your visit go as smoothly as possible.
MedStar Union Memorial Gastroenteroligist Dr. Lester Kenneth Bowser says prep for a colonoscopy can lower risks of complications with the procedure and can decrease the time of the procedures while giving medical professionals a higher success rate when finding polyps.
"The cleaner the colon the faster we can maneuver to see what is going on, also we can decrease the interval or the time in between the procedure. So if there's a spotless colon and no stool in there we can get a longer duration or interval prior to the next colonoscopy," said Dr. Bowser.
First things first, when advised by a medical professional to schedule a colonoscopy it may mean that you need a screening, a diagnostic, or health surveillance to detective signs of cancerous symptoms.
Dr. Bowser says screenings are usually for people 50 years or older who doctors may suggest to get checked for any evidence of colon cancer or a history of colon polyps due to high risks of the illness in correlation to age. Surveillance, on the other hand, is suggested for people who may have family history or personal history of high risk conditions related to colon cancer. And diagnostic purposes are for those who are anemic, or having symptoms such as rectal bleeding, or a history of diverticulitis.
For typical prep, there are key tips that a person must do to be prepared for the examination.
The day before starting the prep, the patient must be on a clear liquid diet. This means drinking clear liquids that you can see through and staying away from colored drinks that may make it difficult for doctors to clearly see inside of your colon. Dr. Bowser says some physicians may even have patients stay away from nuts and seeds the week before as part of a low residue diet.
"For a successful colonoscopy the bowel needs to be cleaned so cleaning up where we can get a good look with a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a flexible tube with a light and a camera on the end that we insert into the rectum and we can look at the entire colon, "says Dr. Bowser," But if they're not prepped, meaning the stool isn't cleared out, then we don't get a good look in the colon."
After performing the clear liquid diet, you have to drink prep. Preps can be done at home with prescribed medication or over the counter products from the drug store. These medications are laxatives that come in different types usually powders that are reconstituted with water or clear liquid, says Dr. Bowser.
"You have to make sure that you are well hydrated the day before or couple days before, because certain preps can dehydrate you, but the ones that we typically use will pass through the colon without pulling fluid from your body where you're dehydrated," says Dr. Bowser.
The final step is to make sure your doctor knows what medications you are on. Diabetic medication and blood thinning medicines are examples of medications that doctors take a closer look at prior to performing the procedure. Performing a colonoscopy for patients under these type of medications may require extra steps and attention to ensure that the procedure will not cause any health complications.
"We need to know history, especially with patients with kidney problems, also patients who are pregnant we definitely need to know because we really have to determine whether the procedure should be now versus after," said Dr. Bowser.
Colonoscopies can be a life saving procedure if doctors are able enter the colon and clearly spot any alarming evidence of polyps or symptoms of cancer. So, properly preparing yourself for the examination with proper diet and several prep options, can help doctors get through the colon.