Colonoscopy Procedure

A colonoscopy is an examination of the lining of the rectum and colon (the large intestine) through a flexible tube called a colonoscope. The colonscope allows a specially trained physician to directly view this area and identify any abnormalities that may indicate colorectal cancer or other gastrointestinal diseases. The gastroenterology team at Penn Medicine are focused on keeping patients comfortable, and providing all the right information to prepare for the procedure.

Penn Medicine and patients highlight the risks, treatment options and prevention measures associated with colorectal cancer, including the importance of colorectal screenings.

Colonoscopy preparation

Colonoscopy patients will need to take several steps to ensure a successful procedure.

  • Fill a prescription for a laxative your doctor will prescribe to cleanse your bowel. This can be filled at any pharmacy.
  • Bring a list of all your medications (prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and eye drops) with you on the day of your colonoscopy procedure. You may bring the medication bottles themselves.
  • Be prepared to list and describe your allergies and reactions to any medications.

To properly prepare for your procedure, you may also need to make certain changes to your daily medication routine:

  • If you take insulin, consult with your physician about making any necessary changes in your daily regimen.
  • If you take medications that contain aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Motrin®, Advil®, Indocin®, or Feldene®), we recommend that you stop taking them seven days before your procedure. They may increase your risk of bleeding after removal of a polyp or a biopsy during your colonoscopy by interfering with the normal clotting of your blood.
  • If you are currently taking Coumadin® or Heparin®, you must check with your prescribing physician before changing or interrupting your daily routine.
  • Stop taking iron supplements seven days before your procedure.

Certain medications should be continued prior to your colonoscopy. If you take cardiac (heart) or anti-hypertensive (high blood pressure) pills, take them as you normally do with small sips of water.

Food & Drink

The day before your procedure, you should not eat solid food, and should drink only clear liquids. Clear liquids include water, apple juice, ginger ale, sprite, beef or chicken broth without noodles, coffee or tea without cream or milk, most sodas, sherbet, popsicles, and Jell-O® that is not red or orange.

  • Between 5pm and 7pm, drink an 8 oz. glass of your prescribed laxative every 10 minutes.  If you feel full or experience nausea or significant abdominal pain, wait before drinking the next glass. It may be easier to drink each 8 oz. glass rapidly rather than drinking small amounts continuously. Drink the entire gallon of fluid. You should begin having bowel movements within the hour.
  • If you are scheduled for a morning procedure, you should have nothing by mouth (including gum and mints) after midnight. The exception is medication taken with small sips of water.
  • If you are scheduled for an afternoon procedure, you may continue drinking small quantities of clear liquids up to 6 hours prior to your scheduled arrival time.
The day of your colonoscopy

On the day of your colonoscopy, plan to spend several hours at the unit to allow time for preparation.

Before the procedure, a nurse will greet you and assist you with changing into a hospital gown. An IV will be placed in your arm. You will receive relaxing medications through the IV during the procedure. You will be lying on your side for your colonoscopy and the flexible tube will be passed into your rectum to view the lining of the rectum and large intestine (colon). The test takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

Because you will receive a relaxing medication during your procedure, you must arrange for transportation from the hospital.

Penn Medicine requires that you make these arrangements, or your procedure will not be performed.

After your colonoscopy

After the colonoscopy, you will be taken to the recovery area where you will be monitored until most of the effects of the relaxing medication have worn off.

You may have some cramping or bloating as a result of the procedure.

The endoscopist will discuss the results of your procedure with you prior to your discharge. You will receive discharge instructions on the day of the test.

Your endoscopy report and biopsy results will be sent to your referring physician.

If you would like to speak to a nurse regarding your procedure or preparation, or if you need to reschedule your procedure, please call the appropriate number:

  • Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
    Procedure Questions: 215-662-2122
    To Reschedule: 215-349-8222
  • Penn Presbyterian Medical Center
    All Questions: 215-662-8900
  • Pennsylvania Hospital
    All Questions: 215-829-3561
  • Penn Medicine Radnor
    All Questions: 610-902-1500

These instructions apply to patients scheduled for procedures at Penn Gastroenterology. However, your doctor may give you different instructions or procedures. If you have questions about your procedure, contact your physician at Penn Gastroenterology.