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Gastroenterol Nurs. 2008 Jan-Feb;31(1):30-5; quiz 36-7. doi: 10.1097/01.SGA.0000310933.54551.ca.

Key safety issues of bowel preparations for colonoscopy and importance of adequate hydration.

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  • 1National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland 20889, USA. cadykes@bethesda.med.navy.mil


Although screening colonoscopy is effective for early detection of colorectal cancer, screening rates remain low. Multiple factors are thought to be responsible for the low rates of screening colonoscopy, but bowel preparation appears to be a key deterrent. Tolerability issues with bowel preparations may lead to poor patient compliance, inadequate colon cleansing, and reduced detection of colonic polyps. Successful colon cleansing requires careful selection of the appropriate bowel purgative regimen, as well as patient acceptance of and compliance with the chosen regimen. The two major classes of bowel preparations include polyethylene glycol solutions and sodium phosphate preparations. Patient preference for tablet versus liquid formulations and medical history (e.g., renal impairment) should be considered when choosing the appropriate bowel preparation. Regardless of the bowel preparation administered, adequate hydration is important before, during, and after bowel preparation. Appropriate patient education regarding hydration and individualized patient instructions may increase compliance, reduce adverse events, promote successful bowel preparation for colonoscopy, and enhance the probability of a quality exam.

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