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Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

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What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a test that lets the doctor view the inside of your lower digestive tract. It can help screen for colon cancers and can also help find the source of abdominal pain, bleeding or changes in bowel habits. Cancer of the colon and rectum is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Screening for this cancer can prevent many of these cancer deaths.


If you take blood thinners such as: Coumadin (warfarin), Plavix (clopidigrel) Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto(rivaroxaban) Eliquis (apixiban), Effient (prasugrel) Brilinta (ticagrelor) Cilostazol (pletal), you must speak to your doctor who prescribes the medication for you. This may be your primary doctor, anticoagulation clinic or cardiologist. They will tell you the number of days to hold the blood thinner before your procedure.


  • Remember your sugars will come from clear liquids while you prep for your colonoscopy..
  • While on clear liquids watch for symptoms of low blood sugar or monitor your blood sugar every 6 hours.
  • Insulin: Take ½ of your usual insulin dose the day(s) you drink your prep.
  • DO NOT take any insulin or diabetes pills on the day of the procedure.
  • Speak with your provider for questions about your diabetes.


  • You will be sedated for the colonoscopy.
  • Bring a responsible adult (over 18 years old) to your appointment. We will ask them to wait in the lobby and after the procedure, take you home.
  • Please note: If you arrive without a responsible adult, even if you complete the prep, your procedure may need to be rescheduled. Please call your Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) to discuss options in advance if you do not have someone to come with you.
Check out Some of our most Frequently Asked Questions by our Veterans

After your Procedure

  • No driving, important decision making or alcohol for 24 hours.
  • Rest for the remainder of the day.
  • If tissue is removed, a letter with biopsy results will be mailed within 2 weeks.


  • Drink more water than normal the day before the procedure.
  • Mix the prep powder early and refrigerate it before you need to begin drinking.
  • Drink the prep through a straw.

    Additional Resources 

    The following links are provided for general information purposes only. They are not endorsed by Veterans Health Administriaon and should not be used in place of medical advice from your Primary Care Doctor or your Gastrointestinal Doctor.

    Colorectal Cancer Statistics

    What to Expect From Your Colonoscopy Procedure  

Split Preparation Instructions

Five Days Before                                   

Do NOT take iron, vitamins, fiber supplements, aspirin (325 milligrams), or NSAIDS such as: Motrin (ibuprofen), Naproxen, Meloxicam, Advil and Aleve.

Two Days Before                                  

Start clear liquid diet at 10:00 p.m.

No solid food of any kind.

You may consume:

  • Clear bouillon or broth
  • Tea or Black coffee (no milk or creamer) 
  • Gatorade, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid (NO RED OR DARK PURPLE)
  • Apple juice, white grape juice, and/ or white cranberry juice
  • Plain jello or popsicles (NO RED OR DARK PURPLE) 

You may NOT consume:

  • No milk products
  • No alcohol

The Day Before                                   

  • Stay on clear liquid diet.
  • 4:00 p.m: take all 4 Dulcolax (bisacodyl) pills with a full glass of water.
  • 5:00 p.m: mix first Miralax (polyethylene glycol) powder in 64 oz. of light colored Gatorade or other clear liquid. (shake)
  • 6:00 p.m: drink one 16 oz. glass of mixed powder every 15 minutes.
  • 8:00 p.m: mix second bottle of powder and refrigerate.

Note: Stay on clear liquids. No solid foods.

Day of Procedure                                   

  • Five hours before your appointment drink the mixed powder; one 16oz. glass every 15 minutes until at least half of the bottle is gone.
  • Take your blood pressure, seizure, and pain medication at least two hour prior to your procedure.
  • Two hours before your appointment do not drink anything. 
  • Please arrive on time for your appointment at the Special Procedures Unit, Building 50, 3rd floor