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The following information will help you prepare and know what to expect for your colonoscopy at Penn Medicine.

Please read this entire page. Preparation begins one to two weeks prior to your test.

Your Preparation Guide

It is very important to follow these instructions to make sure your colon is as clean as possible and to get the highest quality procedure.

Print a copy of the guide (espanol)

One to Two Weeks Before

If you take prescription medications regularly — including blood thinners and diabetes medications — ask the doctor who prescribed them if and when you should stop taking them. Do not stop taking any of your regular medications without direction from your doctor.

Stop taking iron supplements seven days (one week) prior to your procedure. 

Purchase these preparation materials:

  • MiraLAX®: 1 bottle, 238 grams
  • Dulcolax® (Bisacodyl): 4 pills, 5 mgs each
  • Gatorade or Crystal Light Lemonade: 64 ounces (two 32 ounce bottles), yellow, green, or clear only

Try to eat a low-fiber diet for one week prior to your exam. Avoid seeds, nuts, popcorn or other high-fiber foods.

Arrange for a responsible person to pick you up after your exam is completed. Inform them that your estimated exam completion time will be two to three hours after your arrival time. You are not allowed to drive or leave the endoscopy center alone.

One Day Before

Food:

  • Do not eat any solid food for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • You may have clear broth or bouillon, Jell-O® and ice pops (yellow, green or clear).

Drink:

  • Drink plenty of clear fluids such as: water, broth, apple juice, white grape juice, and diet/regular Ginger Ale or Sprite®.
  • Do not have any red, blue or purple foods and drinks.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Coffee and tea are OK, no milk or cream.

4 pm on the Day Before the Exam

Take 4 Dulcolax® pills.

Mix the entire MiraLAX® bottle with 64 ounces of Gatorade or Crystal Light Lemonade in a large pitcher. Stir and place in the refrigerator.

5 to 6 pm on the Day Before the Exam

Drink the first half (32 ounces) of MiraLAX® solution during this hour. You may not enjoy the taste; try drinking it cold, use a straw, or take small sips. Use a measuring cup or large drinking glass to measure eight ounces.

  • 5 pm: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • 5:15 pm: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • 5:30 pm: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • 5:45 pm: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution

Six Hours Before Arrival Time

Note: You may need to set an alarm to meet this time requirement.

Drink the remaining half (32 ounces) of MiraLAX® solution starting six hours before your ARRIVAL time. It is important to finish drinking all the solution.

  • Six hours before arrival: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • Five hours and 45 minutes before arrival: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • Five hours and 30 minutes before arrival: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution
  • Five hours and 15 minutes before arrival: Drink 8 ounces of the MiraLAX® solution

The exact times can be found using the Solution Schedule table, based on your arrival time.

Do not drink or eat within three hours of the exam.

Solution Schedule

Based on your arrival time, please refer to the chart below for the second part of your colonoscopy preparation.

Stop drinking all liquids 3 hours before arrival time.

Drink 8 oz. Drink 8 oz. Drink 8 oz. Drink 8 oz. Arrival
1:00 am 1:15 am 1:30 am 1:45 am 7:00 am
1:30 am 1:45 am 2:00 am 2:15 am 7:30 am
2:00 am 2:15 am 2:30 am 2:45 am 8:00 am
2:30 am 2:45 am 3:00 am 3:15 am 8:30 am
3:00 am 3:15 am 3:30 am 3:45 am 9:00 am
3:30 am 3:45 am 4:00 am 4:15 am 9:30 am
4:00 am 4:15 am 4:30 am 4:45 am 10:00 am
4:30 am 4:45 am 5:00 am 5:15 am 10:30 am
5:00 am 5:15 am 5:30 am 5:45 am 11:00 am
5:30 am 5:45 am 6:00 am 6:15 am 11:30 am
6:00 am 6:15 am 6:30 am 6:45 am 12:00 pm
6:30 am 6:45 am 7:00 am 7:15 am 12:30 pm
7:00 am 7:15 am 7:30 am 7:45 am 1:00 pm
7:30 am 7:45 am 8:00 am 8:15 am 1:30 pm
8:00 am 8:15 am 8:30 am 8:45 am 2:00 pm
8:30 am 8:45 am 9:00 am 9:15 am 2:30 pm
9:00 am 9:15 am 9:30 am 9:45 am 3:00 pm
9:30 am 9:45 am 10:00 am 10:15 am 3:30 pm
10:00 am 10:15 am 10:30 am 10:45 am 4:00 pm

What to Expect During the Colonoscopy

Day of the Test

  • Pack lightly and wear loose, comfortable clothing. Leave your money and all other valuables, including jewelry, at home.
  • You can brush your teeth.
  • The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes, but plan to spend two to three hours at the unit to allow time for your preparation, your test, and your recovery.We give each patient the attention needed for his or her test; however, unexpected delays may occur.
  • Before the test, a nurse will greet you and help you change into a hospital gown.
  • The nurse will place a catheter in your arm. You will receive relaxing medicines through the catheter during the test.

After the Test

  • After the colonoscopy, you will go to a recovery area where a nurse will watch you until most of the effects of the relaxing medicine have worn off.
  • You may have some cramping or bloating because air is placed into your intestine during the test. This should go away after several hours.
  • The nurse will provide information about how to take care of yourself at home.
  • A copy of your exam results will be sent to your referring doctor.
  • We will contact you with the test results. If you have not heard from us in seven days, please call the number listed for your test location.
  • You should NOT do any of the following until the day after your exam.
    • drive a car
    • operate machinery or power tools
    • drink alcoholic beverages
    • make any important decisions

*Note: Please follow the instructions as listed for all the endoscopy sites. The PEG instructions should only be followed if specifically indicated by your physician.

Contact Us

If you have specific questions about preparing for your colonoscopy at Penn Medicine, please call your testing location.

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