Colonscopy Bowel Prep Questions

One of the most common questions our colon specialists get are about the bowel prep process including “how bad will it be” and “how do I know if my bowel prep is working?”

Why Is The Right Bowel Prep So Important?

When prepping for a colonoscopy your doctor has probably talked to you about how important the bowel prep process is for accurate results. Residue left behind in the colon can make it harder for your doctor to view your colon during the exam – meaning a polyp or other issue might not be seen as clearly or even missed.

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See Dr. Cary Gentry with CRS explain what to expect and the top 3 reasons some patients take longer than others.

And no one wants to get to a colonoscopy appointment and be told their prep didn’t fully empty the colon and they’ll have to do it again.

So how do you know if your bowel prep isn’t working?

Keep in Mind Everyone is Different

Many people start their prep and expect something to happen with minutes– but everyone is different and for some people prep just takes longer to begin and complete.

For the average patient prep takes 6-8 hours to complete and often women can take longer than men. Women often have longer colons due to childbirth or hysterectomies so it can take more time for material to travel through the colon.

When To Call Our Office

  • If it has been more than 4 hours since you started bowel prep and you aren’t feeling the effects
  • If you experience persistent nausea or vomiting during preparation

Generally if you’ve started prep but haven’t felt the urge to go to bathroom after an hour, there is no cause for concern or a call to the doctor’s office.

However, if it has been more than 4 hours since you started the bowel prep process and you aren’t feeling the effects please contact our office for instructions. Or if you experience persistent nausea or vomiting during preparation you should call and let us know.

Health Issues or Medications May Also Impact Prep

Not following the instructions, or drinking clear liquids as prescribed can slow or negatively impact bowel prep. And patients with diabetes, neurologic conditions or those who take certain medications suffer from chronic constipation may take up to twice as long to complete the process.

This is just one of the many reasons the physicians at CRS may meet with patients beforehand to review your health history and identify and factors that might impact the type of prep given.

It is important to bring a list of every medication you are taking, as there are several different colon preparations and your CRS doctor will determine the best prep based on your specific situation.

If necessary your CRS doctor may consult with your primary care, or GI doctor, to discuss stopping, or altering dosage, or certain medications prior to your exam.

Signs Your Colon is Clear

The morning of your exam if you are still passing brown liquid with solid material mixed in, your colon may not be ready and you should contact your doctor’s office.

Passing mostly clear or only a light color, including yellow, is a sign your colon is clean enough for an accurate examination.

About CRS

Established in 1913, CRS is one of the oldest continually operating groups of colon and rectal surgeons in the country and the largest state-of-the-art practice on the East Coast with three locations around Richmond, VA.

The physicians and staff of Colon & Rectal Specialists are committed to providing to all our patients the special care and education needed for the treatment of colon and rectal problems.

Contact us for more information or an appointment at one of our three Richmond area locations.



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