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The following information aims to assist you in preparing you for your colonoscopy procedure, provides helpful hints as you are taking your bowel preparation, briefly provides what to expect when you go home and when to seek medical help.

Preparation for colonoscopy

Bowel preparation

For a successful colonoscopy it is important the bowel is very empty. An empty bowel
means the doctor is more likely to see the lining of the bowel and detect any problems.
Poor preparation may mean the procedure will need to be repeated on another day.


It is important to arrange to have a ‘Carer’ to care for you when you leave
hospital. Every patient who has a procedure performed under sedation or general
anaesthetic and is leaving hospital within the same day as their procedure needs
to be handed over to a carer (over 18 years of age). This person will be responsible
for your wellbeing and recovery for up to 12 or 24 hours depending on the type
of anaesthesia received. The ‘Responsible Person’ brochure will provide more detail
regarding the expectation of responsibilities and the required time period.

Work arrangements

In preparing for your colonoscopy it is also important that you re-arrange your normal
activities and take time off for:

  • the preparation of the procedure
  • the day of the procedure
  • the day after your procedure (if instructed).

Please speak with your doctor or a member of the nursing team should you require an medical certificate for either yourself or the person responsible for picking you up from hospital and caring for you at home. If you have any questions prior to your procedure contact the preadmission department on 3098 3923 or 3098 3922.

Medications and your procedure

Some medications must be stopped prior to your procedure. These instructions will be given by your doctor and listed on your bowel preparation instructions. Ensure you check and follow these instructions.

Diet preparation and bowel preparation

For the colonoscopy to be successful it is important to follow the diet and bowel
preparation instructions that are included in your ‘Bowel preparation medication’ pack.
Bowel preparation for your colonoscopy will take five (5) days. Refer to your bowel
preparation instructions to find the date of when to commence your preparation.
The following steps are a summary of the bowel preparation program:

Days 1–3: On these days you will need to eat a low fibre diet to reduce the bulky
waste in the bowel. This assists the preparation medication to empty the bowel. To
assist you with your low fibre diet plan refer to ‘Guide for selecting low fibre diet
options’ at the end of this booklet.

Day 4 (Day before your procedure): On this day you will need to have a clear
fluids diet and start your bowel preparation. To assist you with your clear fluids
diet plan, follow the ‘Guide for selecting clear fluids diet options’ at the end of this
booklet and the bowel preparation instructions ‘Day before procedure’.

Day 5 (Day of your procedure): Diet and bowel preparation continue on this
day and are outlined clearly under ‘Day of procedure’ in your bowel preparation
instructions. Depending on whether your procedure is booked as a morning
procedure or an afternoon procedure will be the guide as to which instructions you
will need to follow. Please note the time when to stop eating and drinking.

Some patients who experience constipation will also be prescribed pre-treatment
laxatives for three days prior to their procedure.

Helpful hints while going through bowel preparation

Bowel preparation

  • Use a measuring container with a one litre (1 L) mark. This will provide an accurate measure instead of an estimated measure.
  • If you find the taste of the preparation drink unpleasant or it makes you feel nauseated try the following suggestions:
    - Drink the bowel preparation through a straw. This helps reduce the amount of taste.
    - Sip fluids steadily instead of drinking large amounts quickly.
    - Suck an occasional barley sugar or butterscotch lolly between drinks.
    - Brush teeth or suck on ice cube prior to drinking the prep.
  • If you are feeling unwell or bloated try:
    - walking around
    - sipping on a warm clear fluid drink (e.g. peppermint tea).
  • Set an alarm to ensure you wake for your early morning bowel prep drink.
  • Keep a light on for safety when going to the toilet during the night.
  • Keep to the drinking timeframes set out in the bowel preparation instructions to assist with clearing your bowel appropriately.
  • To enhance the taste of the bowel preparation drink, add some cordial (diabetic cordial for diabetics). It is important to avoid blue, red, purple and green coloured cordial.
  • Drink extra clear fluids to assist in the cleansing of the bowel.
  • Keep warm.
  • You may feel more comfortable wearing a continence pad.

Keep well hydrated

During the bowel preparation it is expected you will be emptying your bowel
frequently and therefore losing fluids from your body. The following points will help
manage the fluid loss:

  • Be prepared with extra clear fluids by having a variety of options for clear fluids prepared prior to starting your bowel preparation.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids will help replace the fluids lost and can help to avoid headaches. If you develop a headache, you may take the medication you usually take for pain or a headache according to the medication instructions.

Reduce irritation

  • Apply protective cream around anal area to reduce irritation e.g. lanolin, paw-paw ointment, vaseline.
  • Wipe gently after each bowel motion.
  • Use wet wipes instead of toilet paper, disposing of them in the bin instead of flushing.
  • Use haemorrhoid cream to reduce discomfort if you have haemorrhoids.


What to do if the following occurs during bowel preparation

Failure to have a bowel motion

People vary in the time it takes to have a bowel motion after commencing the
bowel preparation. To help relieve any concerns about your progress the following
information will help guide you.

Day before your procedure:
If you have not had a bowel motion and you are not experiencing pain or vomiting,
continue drinking.

Day of your procedure:
If you have not had a bowel motion or your bowel motions are not clear, please contact the preadmission clinic on 3098 3923 or 3098 3922.

Severe pain and vomiting

If you have severe pain or vomiting, or you are unwell and concerned about your
health, it is wise to attend your nearest emergency department or phone an
ambulance on 000 in order to be assessed by medical staff.

Planning for going home after the procedure

Before you go home, a nurse will speak with you and your carer about what to expect.
You will be given a copy of your procedure report and discharge instructions. A copy
of this report will be sent to your GP. Your procedure and results are to be discussed
at a follow up appointment with your GP (allow 7 days for pathology reports to be
available). You may receive a phone call or if you are required to attend the hospital
outpatient department for follow up, an appointment letter will be sent to you.

Important information for after your procedure

After you leave the hospital, if you have any non-urgent concerns please speak with your GP or contact the procedure department on 3098 5430.

If you or your carer notice any of the following please present to your nearest emergency department or phone an ambulance on 000:

  • persistent bleeding from bowels or black tarry bowel motions
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • rapid heart beat, dizziness
  • increasing drowsiness, including difficulty rousing from sleep
  • increasing persistent pain unrelieved by medication
  • inability to keep fluids down
  • high fever
  • any other concerns where you feel you need medical assistance.


Guide for selecting low fibre options

Food group Allowed Not allowed
Breads and cereals Any product made with white flour ONLY: Breads, sourdough breads, English muffins crumpets, wraps, rolls, bagels, croissant, rice and wheat crackers, plain biscuits, cakes, pancakes, pikelets, pretzels
Any refined grain: white rice, instant noodles, pasta, processed cereals (rice bubbles, cornflakes, semolina), pappadums.
Any product containing wholemeal (brown), multigrain, wholegrain, rye flours, oats, bran seeds, nuts, nut meal, fruit and coconut: e.g. breads, English muffins,
crumpets, rolls, wraps, naan or roti, specialty breads with seeds on top, crackers (rice and wheat), biscuits, cakes,muffins, pasta, cereals, muesli bars, fruit breads, pastries etc.
Any whole grain product: brown rice, wild rice, couscous, polenta quinoa, chia, bran and oats.
Limit to 1 cup per day
Stewed or canned apple, canned pears and peaches, pawpaw, rockmelon, watermelon. Strained fruit juice.
All other fruits.
All dried fruit and nuts.
Limit to 1 cup
boiled or
per day
Potato, pumpkin, button mushrooms, cauliflower tips, lettuce, marrow, zucchini, squash, choko and asparagus tips.
All other vegetables including salad vegetables.
Dairy products Dairy, soy, almond, powdered or evaporated milk. Plain, vanilla or non-fruit flavoured yoghurt. Cheese. Butter and margarine. Vanilla ice-cream, custard, cream, sour cream, rice pudding and condensed milk. Dairy foods with added ingredients such as fruit, herbs peppercorns, nuts, oats. Oat milk
Meat and
Protein foods
Plain beef, lamb, veal, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish and eggs. Hamburger mince, lasagne, bolognaise sauces, savoury mince or any meat dishes which have vegetables or fillers. Legumes: e.g. lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas or barlotti, baked beans or any other legumes. Tofu.
Beverages Water, tea, herbal teas, and coffee
Soft drinks, cordials and sports drinks
Clear broths and strained soups
Plain milk, Ovaltine and Nesquick/Breaka drinks
Unstrained fruit juices
Coconut water (many contain added fibre)
Other Sugar, honey, and Vegemite
Plain ice blocks, plain lollies,
plain chocolate
Pies, quiches, spices, curry,
pastry foods, jams, marmalade,
peanut butter, dried fruit and
nuts, pickles, popcorn, potato
chips, seeds, chocolate with
fruit, coconut or nuts.


Guide for selecting clear fluid diet options

Allowed Not allowed
• water
• black tea or coffee
• herbal tea (provided not red/purple/blue/green)
• clear broth or Bonox/stock cube in warm water (strained)
• strained apple juice (no pulp/not cloudy)
• soda water
• ginger beer/ale and lemonade
• lemon/orange cordial
• lemonade ice-blocks
• yellow/orange sports drinks
• Solid food
• Cloudy fluids
• Milk drinks including in tea/coffee
• Fluids that have sediment or floating solids
• Brightly coloured liquids (e.g. red/purple/blue/green) as these will stain the bowel
• No alcohol of any kind


© 2016 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420057
Last modified 03/7/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 01/4/2016
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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