What is bowel preparation?

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Bowel preparation before your child's procedure: Overview

Bowel preparation (or bowel prep) empties and cleans out your child's large intestine (colon). Bowel prep is done before tests that look inside the colon, such as a colonoscopy. These tests look for small growths (called polyps) or other problems like bleeding. The colon has to be empty and clean so the doctor can see problems.

For many people, the bowel prep is worse than the test. The liquid your child may have to drink can taste bad. Mixing it with a sports drink like Gatorade can help make it taste better. And your child may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. Your child may also spend a lot of time in the bathroom.

But it's very important for your child to do the prep exactly as your doctor directs. If your child doesn't, the doctor can't see the entire lining of the colon. This may mean that your child has to repeat the test and will have to do the prep again.

What bowel preparation does your child need before surgery?

Surgery 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 surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery 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 surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

Before the surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • If your child is given a liquid bowel prep, have your child follow the doctor's instructions for taking it. Some people think it tastes bad. But mixing it with a sports drink like Gatorade can make it taste better. You may also want to give your child lemon drops or other hard candies to suck on after drinking it. The liquid will make your child have diarrhea. Your child's bowel is empty when the fluid that comes out is clear.
  • If you are told to give your child an enema, follow the directions on the package. The enema solution is in a plastic bottle with a long, narrow tip. You put the tip of the bottle into your child's anus. Then you squeeze the liquid into the rectum. Have your child hold the liquid for a few minutes. Then your child will use the toilet. Your doctor may also have you give your child a liquid bowel prep to drink.
  • In some cases, your child may be given antibiotics. These medicines lower the chance of infection. Give these medicines to your child exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.

Bowel preparation before your surgery: When to call

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You are having trouble with the bowel prep.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

What bowel preparation do you need on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Your doctor may have you use an enema before the surgery.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.