Southern Arizona VA Health Care System
Colonoscopy Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need to finish my prep and have a clean colon?
Polyps, growths on the walls of the colon, and other abnormal looking tissue can be missed if the colon walls still have solid or thick liquid stool. The poop will block the camera and abnormal tissue or missed polyps may have the potential to develop into cancerous growths later on.
How can I tell when my colon is clean enough?
When your diarrhea is clear or light colored and you can see through them to the bottom of the toilet bowl, your colon should be well cleaned out. Please keep drinking the bowel prep until it is finished entirely, even if your bowel movements look clear. If all of your bowel prep is completed and you are still having dark, thick, or solid stool, please contact the GI Clinic or Lab and follow up with your doctor. They may need to re-schedule your procedure and prescribe you more prep.
As the preparation for the exam starts during day shift hours, we recommend you do not work the day shift when starting bowel prep. If you cannot miss work, please start your prep as closely to the time stated in the instructions as possible. Please remember to drink only clear liquids per your procedure instructions and DO NOT eat solid foods. If you work night shift, we recommend you take the night off so that you may have access to a bathroom quickly and are able to take the second half of your prep the next morning.
Can I still have my procedure if I am on my period?
Menstrual periods do not affect either the Upper Endoscopy or Colonoscopy procedures. You may wear tampons or pads to your procedure. Please note: if you are still having menstrual periods, you will be asked to give a urine sample to test for pregnancy BEFORE your procedure. Please do not urinate prior to being taken back with your prep nurse. This test is for your safety and the safety of a pregnancy should the test have a positive result.
What do I do if I start vomiting and can’t drink the preparation?
If you start throwing up while taking the prep, it is ok to stop taking the colon solution for about an hour to let your stomach settle. After an hour, resume the drinking the prep at a slower pace. It is still very important to complete ALL of the solution. If the vomiting continues, contact the GI Lab to let your procedural doctor know. He may need to re-schedule your appointment and give you a different kind of bowel prep to ensure a successful procedure.
How long does it take the bowel prep to start working?
The bowel prep effects every person differently and may start working any time after you start drinking the solution, this can be anywhere from minutes to hours. If it is your first time taking stool softeners or a bowel prep, we recommend staying close to a bathroom to avoid accidents.
Will I have diarrhea after my procedure?
After your procedure, you may still pass some liquids from your colon. This could be some left over fluids from water we use to rinse out areas of the colon or it could be loose stool. Your bowel movements should return to whatever is normal for you in the following one to five days.
How long do Colonoscopies last?
Expect to be at the VA for approximately 3 hours. Colonoscopies can typically last anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes depending on weather the doctor needs to take biopsies or remove any polyps. These times are an estimation. Your doctor will spend as much time with you and every patient as they need to ensure you get the best possible care from your VA Hospital. This may occasionally cause delays.
How long do EGDs last?
Expect to be at the VA for approximately 3 hours. Upper Endoscopies should last anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes depending on weather the doctor needs to take biopsies. These times are an estimation. Your doctor will spend as much time with you and every patient as they need to ensure you get the best possible care from your VA Hospital. This may occasionally cause delays.
I have diabetes. What should I do if my blood sugar gets too low?
The VA recommends you check your blood sugars frequently while prepping for your procedure. If your sugars are low, drink clear liquids with sugar and keep your emergency medications close by. Monitor your blood sugar frequently during this time. If your blood sugar remains low, contact your Doctor for further instructions or go to the Emergency Room.
What if my blood sugar is too high?
If your blood sugar is high, follow the GI procedural instructions on the use of oral diabetic medications or insulin and drink sugar free fluids. Monitor your blood sugar frequently during this time. If your blood sugar remains high, contact your Doctor for further instructions or go to the Emergency Room.
Will I be awake during my procedure?
Here at the VA we use several kinds of sedation based on what will be safest for your individual needs. The most common type of sedation is called “Moderate Sedation” or “Conscious Sedation”. This form of sedation uses two medications, one to make you forgetful and one to ease discomfort from the procedure. These two types of medications can have the potential to make you sleep for a portion of the procedure, however, not everyone falls asleep with these medications. The goal is to make you forgetful of the procedure and to keep you comfortable. It is not uncommon for patients to remember short portions of their procedure and talk to their doctor or nurse as the procedure is ending. Your nurse will give you less medication when the doctor is close to being done to assist you in waking up. This will help the nurses recover you safely.
Will my colonoscopy be painful?
Although most patients do not remember their procedure or if it was painful, sometimes patients may feel discomfort after the colonoscopy. The most common type of discomfort is cramping. Because the colon is a long, hollow tube, the colon lays flat on itself until something passes through it (i.e. stool). Your doctor will inflate your colon with air to get a good look at the walls of your colon. This may cause cramping or gas pains after your procedure. Your recovery nurse will encourage you to pass gas while you are in the recovery room to reduce discomfort if there is any.