A colonoscopy is done to examine the entire colon (Picture 1). A flexible tube (scope) with a bright light on the end is used for the test. The doctor will look for signs of redness, swelling, bleeding ulcers or infections of the bowel wall.
He will collect small samples (biopsies) to be looked at under a microscope.
How to prepare for the test
- For one week before the procedure and 3 days after the procedure, your child should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Names for some of these are aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin® and Advil®), Naprosyn (Aleve®) and Celebrex.
- He or she may take Tylenol® (Acetaminophen) if needed. If you have any questions about your child’s medicine please call the GI office at 614-722-3450.
- If your child takes an iron supplement, it should not be taken the day before the procedure. It may be restarted the day after the procedure.
Your child's colon will need to have all stool cleaned out for the test. The colon is difficult to check if there is stool left inside. The test may need to be redone after a more complete or longer cleanout. See the last page for preparation directions.
Your child will need to take laxatives to prepare for the procedure.
This prep will start on the day before the procedure. The prep will make your child's stools looser and more frequent. By evening on the prep day, your child’s stools should be watery yellow or green. If this is not the case, call the hospital at (614) 722-2000 and ask for the GI doctor on call.
You can get the items you need for the prep from your pharmacy without a prescription. If you cannot find these items, call the GI office.
Your child will miss school on the prep day and on the day of the test.
How the test is done
- If your child is an outpatient, you will register him or her in the GI Department Surgery Center or Outpatient Surgery as instructed.
- If your child is an inpatient, he will be taken from his room to the pre-op area. The nurses and anesthesiologists will discuss your child’s anesthesia and other health concerns with you.
- Your child will go to the Procedure/Operating Room where he will fall asleep with general anesthesia.
- A flexible tube about as thick as your second finger (a colonoscope) will be placed in your child’s rectum and moved through the colon. It is not always possible to get all the way through the colon due to turns or other conditions.
- Several small tissue samples (biopsies) about the size of a pinhead will be taken from the lining of the colon to be looked at under a microscope.
- When the test is done, your child will be taken to the recovery room to wake up. Most children are ready to go home or return to their rooms within one and one-half hours.
After the test
Right after the test, your child's doctor will talk with you about what was seen during the test and the plan for treatment.
- Your child may have some gas cramps after the test. This is caused by air that was used to open the colon up so it could be seen clearly. Pushing the gas out while sitting on the toilet and walking around usually helps these cramps. Some children may have nausea from the anesthesia.
- After your child is awake and able to drink, he will be able to eat normal foods.
- When your child is awake and ready to be discharged, a staff member will take him to your car in a wheelchair or a wagon.
- Your child may be unsteady on his feet. He should have help with any activity for a few hours or until all the sedation has worn off. He should not ride a bike, play sports or do other things that require coordination or judgment for the rest of the day.
Risks and possible complications
- There can be bleeding from biopsy sites. This is rarely severe unless your child has a bleeding problem such as hemophilia or a platelet disorder.
- A hole in the colon (perforation) can occur. This is very rare unless the colon is very diseased and thin. Perforations usually need surgery to repair the hole.
- Infections can occur, but this is rare unless your child has a heart problem or problems with his immune system. In these cases, antibiotics are usually given.
When to call the doctor
Call the GI Department if your child has any of the following symptoms:
- more rectal bleeding 1 or 2 days after the procedure
- belly pain that comes on suddenly or gets steadily worse
- fever over 101°F
If you have not heard from them by a week after your child's test, you may call the Gastroenterology (GI) office at (614) 722-3450 to learn the results (Picture 2). If there is a need to change the plan of care, you will be told at that time.
If you have any questions, please ask the doctor or nurse or call the GI Department at (614) 722-3450.
Individual Instructions for Colon Prep—the day before procedure:
Please follow the prep below:
- On (day) (date) , your child must be on a clear liquid diet starting in the morning and continuing until the procedure is over. Clear liquids are those you can see through that have no pulp or food bits in them. This includes water, apple juice, white grape juice, Pedialyte®, Gatorade®/Propel® and Kool-Aid® (stay away from red and purple dyes), Jell-O, popsicles and broth with no noodles.
- ABSOLUTELY NO SOLID FOOD OR MILK THE DAY BEFORE THE PROCEDURE. Allowing your child to eat, even tiny amounts of food during or after the prep, forms new stool in the colon and may result in the procedure being cancelled.
- Your child will take these medicines as directed.
- Miralax® (polyethylene glycol 3350) Use 119 grams, which is 7 capfuls, filled to the dosage line on the inside of the cap. Mix with 32 ounces of Gatorade, Kool-Aid or any other clear liquid. Start drinking mixture at 10 a.m. and finish within 3-4 hours.
- Bisacodyl (Dulcolax®) Take one 5 mg tablet at 11 a.m. and one 5 mg tablet at 2 p.m.
(These medicines are available over the counter without a prescription at any pharmacy or grocery store.)
When your child has completely finished with the above prep, he or she may keep drinking above clear liquids until 12 midnight. The procedure room nurse or the outpatient surgery unit nurse will contact you with all other pre-op instructions and arrival time.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the prep, please call the GI procedure room nurse at 614-722-3445.
HH-III-101 7/05, Revised 8/16 Copyright 2005 Nationwide Children’s Hospital