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Colonoscopy prep tips with a stoma

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If you have been referred for a colonoscopy, you may be wondering what to expect on the day and how you should prepare for it. We’ve put together a few hints and tips to help you understand what it is and how to prepare.

A colonoscopy is a test to check inside your bowels to help to find out what is causing the symptoms you may be experiencing. The instrument that is used is called an endoscope. It is a thin, flexible tube which is lubricated and has a camera at the end, so the doctor or nurse can see inside your bowel. It would usually be passed through your bottom and into the lower part of your bowel, however, with a stoma, the tube will be passed through the stoma itself and up into the remaining part of your large bowel.

With the endoscopy appointment letter, you will receive a detailed written guide from your hospital giving you specific instructions on how to clear your bowel prior to the test. It’s really important that the bowel is clean before the test so that the doctor or nurse will be able to see clearly and get a good view. Each hospital has its own preparation instructions, so make sure you read the information they give you carefully as it will advise you what you should be eating and drinking in the days leading up to your test. You will also be given some strong laxatives and instructions on how to take them in order to empty your bowels properly, therefore, you should expect to spend a lot of time in the bathroom with frequent diarrhoea.

If you are taking any medications whilst using the bowel prep, you should discuss this with your doctor or nurse, as some medications may need to be stopped. It’s important to seek some professional advice before you stop your medication and it’s also a good idea to take your medicines to the appointment with you. 

The test itself will last approximately 30-45mins and you will be laid on your side whilst wearing a hospital gown. Whilst you will likely be awake for the test, you may be offered some medicine to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. You may feel the camera as it goes in but this shouldn’t hurt, air will be pumped into your bowels to make the view of the bowel clearer, this may make you feel slightly bloated. A small sample of skin cells may be taken from the lining of your bowel for further testing, but this shouldn’t cause any discomfort.

After the test, you will rest in the recovery room. Your nurse will monitor you and tell you when you are ready to go home. You may feel a bit bloated after the test and also have mild abdominal (tummy) cramps for a few hours. You may also have some slight bleeding in your stool or appliance. This is all normal. If this gets worse please seek advice from your GP.

Hints & Tips:

  • During the bowel preparation, you may need to arrange for some additional supplies for your stoma as you will be changing your pouch more often
  • Try a drainable pouch as soon as you start the bowel prep so that you can go to the toilet and drain the contents. You can keep this pouch on rather than having to remove it each time it needs emptying.
  • Have plenty of dry wipes to hand
  • Use a barrier wipe for the skin around the stoma to help protect it
  • Take plenty of stoma supplies into hospital with you.
  • Take a spare pouch with you into the examination room and show the endoscopist, who will re-apply the pouch for you after the test is over
  • Wear your hospital gown with the opening at the front

We hope this has made you feel a little more relaxed if you do have a colonoscopy coming up. Remember, if you have any worries at all, speak to your stoma nurse or healthcare professional.

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