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Colonoscopy is a test in which the doctor will pass a special lighted flexible tube into the rectum. Air will be placed in the bowel so that the doctor can look at one or more parts of the lower digestive system. The doctor may also take pictures of the bowel and small pieces of tissue for biopsy. The test will be done under anesthesia and takes 30 to 60 minutes. Older children may receive IV sedation for the test and this takes about one hour. 

Before the test

The bowel should be as empty as possible so that the doctor can see the inside. A special treatment will be ordered to help clean the bowel. This may include:

  • Clear liquids 1 day before procedure
  • A bowel cleanser, such as Miralax®
  • Stimulant laxatives

Following the instructions from the GI Nurse and Doctor are important. Call if you have questions.

Explaining the test to your child

How you explain the test to your child depends on his/her age.

  • Very young children, three years or less, need a short simple explanation the day of the test.
  • School-age children and older preschoolers should know that they are coming to the hospital and that while they are sleeping the doctor will check their bottom to see why they have been having problems. They should also be told that their parents will be there when they wake up.
  • Older children may need more in-depth explanations in response to their questions.

After the test

  • Your child may begin normal activities after the anesthesia has worn off. Your child should not drive, operate machinery or play sports until the next day.
  • Your child may complain of stomach cramps, discomfort and the need to pass gas or have a bowel movement. This is normal and is caused by air that is placed in the bowel to help see it better. This should be gone in 1 to 2 days.
  • If biopsies are taken, it is not unusual to see small amounts of blood in the stool for 1 to 2 days.

When to call your child's doctor

  • Your child's temperature is greater than 101.5°F rectally or by mouth. You should take your child's temperature once before bedtime the first night after the test.
  • Your child vomits for more than 6 hours or if the vomiting is severe. A child can become dehydrated with prolonged or severe vomiting if he/she is not able to drink enough fluid to remain hydrated. The signs of dehydration are:
    • Dry mouth
    • Decreased amount of urine, difficulty urinating or fewer wet diapers in an infant/toddler
    • Sunken look around the eyes
    • No tears when crying
    Your child’s nurse will discuss this with you before you go home.

    REMEMBER: Please call if you have any questions. Use the phone number your child’s nurse gives you.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/2018

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