Colonoscopy: Before Your Child's Procedure

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What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy (say "koh-luh-NAW-skuh-pee") is a test that lets a doctor look inside your child's colon. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube called a colonoscope. The doctor will look for causes of your child's symptoms. Your child's symptoms may include belly pain, diarrhea, or bleeding from the rectum.

During the test, the doctor can take samples of tissue or remove any small growths (polyps) that are found. These can then be checked for problems. This is called a biopsy.

Your child must have a clean bowel for the test. Your doctor will give you instructions on when your child should stop eating and how to give the liquid or pills that clean out the bowel. This is called a "colon prep."

This procedure is done in a doctor's office or a clinic or hospital. Your child will get medicine for pain and to help relax. Some children don't remember having the test because of the medicine.

The test takes 30 to 45 minutes. You can take your child home after your child wakes up and the doctor says it's okay.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

    Talk to your child about the procedure. Tell your child that it will check for problems with your child's belly. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
    Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the procedure, both for care and for comfort.
    Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the procedure. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.

Before the procedure

  • Follow your doctor's directions about when your child has to stop eating solid foods and drink only clear liquids. These include water, clear juices, clear broths, frozen fruit treats, and gelatin (such as Jell-O). Do not let your child eat or drink anything red or purple. This includes grape juice and grape-flavored ice pops. It also includes fruit punch and cherry gelatin.
  • Give your child the "colon prep" as your doctor tells you. You will want to stay home with your child, because your child will have to go to the bathroom a lot. Your child's stools will be loose and watery. If your child has problems taking the prep, call your doctor.
  • Be sure that your child does not eat any solid foods after the colon prep.
  • Your child will not be able to drink any clear liquids for a few hours before the test. Your doctor will tell you how many hours this will be.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the procedure may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take any medicines on the day of the procedure, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
    Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
    Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
    Be sure your child has something that is a reminder of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the doctor's office or hospital

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child may get medicine to bring on a light sleep or to relax your child.
  • The procedure will take 30 to 45 minutes.
  • After the procedure, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor their condition. The doctor will talk to you about the procedure.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home shortly after.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the procedure.
  • Your child becomes ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.