Five Most Commonly Used Bowel Preps and What You Have to Do for Each



It’s time to have your colonoscopy. You’ve made your appointment, and now it’s time to start thinking of the details like diet and choosing a bowel prep kit. There are many choices of colon flushes, but which one should you choose?

There are about five bowel preps that are the most common at ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), but they are all different in chemical composition and how they specifically stimulate the colon. Whichever prep you choose, you will follow the same diet of clear liquids including plain coffee and tea, broths, clear juices, Jell-O and popsicles. Remember that you may not have anything with red, blue or purple food coloring because the dye can appear on a colonoscopy as blood. It is important that you read all the literature and instructions that your doctor gives you because if you do not follow the regimen correctly, you may have to repeat your bowel cleanse and your colonoscopy (Source: Gastro Endo News).

Here is a brief description of the most commonly used preps and what you have to do for each one:

High-Volume Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

  • Common names: Golytely, Colyte, Nulytely and Trilyte
  • What makes it work? PEG is electrolyte-based. It will force out all contents of the bowel by introducing large amounts of volume into the colon (about four liters). The night before your colonoscopy, you will drink eight ounces of the solution every 10 minutes until bowel contents are clear or the solution is consumed.
  • Cons: PEGs taste salty and unpleasant. Some people complain of nausea and cramping.

Low-volume Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

  • Common names: Moviprep
  • What makes it work? Moviprep requires you to consume two liters of PEG and one liter of a liquid of your choice instead of four liters of PEG
  • Cons: Unpleasant taste, which may cause nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. If you take any medication that increases your risk of blood salt abnormalities, you should consult your physician.

Oral Sulfate Solution. Low volume, split-dose

  • Common name: Suprep
  • What makes it work? You consume a six-ounce bottle the night before your colonoscopy and a six-ounce bottle the day of your colonoscopy
  • Cons: May cause in increase in uric acid, a concern for those with renal trouble. May also cause pain, vomiting, nausea.

Laxatives—magnesium citrate or bisacodyl

  • Common name: Halflytely
  • What makes it work? Taking either laxative with two liters of PEG, or just magnesium citrate, will be sufficient to flush your colon
  • Cons: May cause cramping, discomfort, nausea

Sodium picosulfate/magnesiumoxide/citric acid solution

  • Common names: Osmoprep and Visicol
  • What makes it work? These tablets are taken in two separate doses, on the evening before and the morning of the procedure. You will drink 10 ounces of prep and 64 ounces of any other clear liquid.
  • Cons: May cause bloating, pain and nausea

Choosing the correct bowel prep for you is important for you to have a successful colonoscopy. A safe preparation of the bowel needs to be individual for each patient, based on his or her age, medical history and potential drug interactions. If you have a preferred prep, please inform your doctor. However, if you are advised to use a different method, you should follow directions exactly. A thorough colon flush is the most important part of your colonoscopy, so follow the prep that your doctor recommends. Take a few moments to read some of our other resources like "5 Tips to Conquer the Colonoscopy Prep" and "Your Guide to an Easy Prep."