A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a physician to view the entire length of the large intestine, and can often help identify ulcers, abnormal growths, inflamed tissue, ulcers, and bleeding; it is a primary method used to diagnose Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The procedure involves inserting a colonoscope – a long, flexible, lighted tube – in through the rectum up into the colon. The colonoscope allows the physician to view the lining of the colon, remove tissue for further examination, and possibly treat some problems that are discovered. There are a number of reasons why children may need a colonoscopy, including:

  • blood in the stool
  • diarrhea
  • pain in the abdomen
Before and After a Colonoscopy

Before having a colonoscopy, the bowel must be completely empty. The night before the test, you will be directed to give your child a laxative drink that will help to flush out the stool. If your child cannot drink the laxative at home, he or she they may need to stay in hospital the night before the colonoscopy so that the laxative can be given through a nasogastric tube (a small thin tube, which is inserted through the nose and then passed down into the stomach).

The day before the colonoscopy, all solid foods must be finished by 2 pm; your child can drink anything (i.e., milk or juice) until 4 pm. After 4 pm, your child may only drink clear fluids (drinks you can easily see through, including water, apple juice, lemonade). Clear fluids do not include fresh fruit juice and milk.

A colonoscopy is performed under an anesthetic, so your child will be asleep during the procedure and will not remember anything. Most children only need to be in the Hospital for a few hours and do not need to stay overnight.

After the colonoscopy your child can begin to eat a light diet (for example jelly, soup, pasta, toast). He or she may return to their usual diet when they feel well enough. Babies can start breast-feeding or drinking formula or water when they are awake.

Children should be able to return to their normal activities the following day. Children can usually go home on the same day as the colonoscopy.

Possible After-Effects from a Colonoscopy

After-effects of a colonoscopy are usually mild and will go away within 24 hours. They include mild abdominal pain and bloating. A sore throat is also common; if your child is old enough, a throat lozenge to suck may help.

If your child has severe abdominal pain or a significant amount of blood in the stool, it is important to contact your child’s gastroenterologist immediately or go to the nearest emergency department.

For more information on colonoscopy, please download Colonoscopy for Kids in English or Spanish.

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