How Long Does It Take To Clear Bowels For Colonoscopy (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 8 – 16 Hours

Colonoscopy is a procedure wherein a gastroenterologist evaluates the inside of the colon i.e the large intestine or large bowel. Colonoscopy is widely performed to diagnose colon cancer. This procedure can also be done to investigate the cause of blood in stool, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.

For colonoscopy, the person’s colon should be clean for a successful completion procedure. Thus, the bowels of such a person should be clear and empty. This process of cleansing one’s colon for colonoscopy is called ‘Colonoscopy bowel preparation’.

A clean bowel is a prerequisite for colonoscopy and thus, should not be taken lightly. One should ensure to follow all the steps mentioned by one’s physician to make sure there are no complications during the actual procedure. Thus, one needs to know how long it could take for the successful completion of the colonoscopy bowel preparation.

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How Long Does It Take To Clear Bowels For Colonoscopy?

A clear bowel indicates that a person is all set to undergo colonoscopy. But to be ready for the procedure, the person has to first make keep the bowels empty. The major indication of whether a person’s bowel is clear or not can be identified by observing the color of the stool of the person.

If one’s stool is all clear without any fecal material or solid residues, one can declare that his colonoscopy bowel preparation is complete and that person is now ready for the procedure. However, if one notices any solid waste then the bowel might still contain some leftover food residues and it is not empty.

Every single person could take a different time to have a clear bowel for colonoscopy and this would depend on their diet, fitness, etc. Some people could take a short while to empty one’s bowel. On the other hand, others could have a longer time to clear their bowels and be ready for a colonoscopy. Remember, this is completely normal as not every human being has the same reaction to every procedure. Each individual is unique and thus, this time could differ from person to person.

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Usually, it is observed that women take longer to clear their bowels as they possess longer colons compared to men. Most patients take about 6 – 8 hours to clear their bowels. However, this duration could even extend up to 16 hours in certain individuals.

Time for bowels to become empty for the colonoscopy8 – 16 hours
Time for the colonoscopy procedure to get completed30 – 60 minutes

Why Does It Take So Long To Clear Bowels For Colonoscopy?

Different people could take different duration to get ready for colonoscopy depending on their bodily factors. Thus, in such circumstances, the color of the stool can help in determining whether the intended person has become ready for the procedure or not.

For colonoscopy, it is necessary to have a clear bowel to avoid any kind of complications during the procedure. hence, every patient is required to empty their bowel before they go in for having a colonoscopy done. For an empty bowel, the color of the stool should be clear without any solid residue in it. A non-empty bowel will make it extremely difficult to observe the colon and can even lead to failure of the entire operation.

To know whether one has a clear bowel or not, one can observe the color of the stool and can look for a light green or yellow color that indicates a person’s colon is ready for examination and can begin with the procedures of colonoscopy. However, if the color of the stool is not clear and is a bit hazy or cloudy, one must consult their health professional for further steps to be followed.

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Constipation can be a major hurdle in getting the bowel empty. Therefore people suffering from constipation problems should let their doctors know about all their issues to enable the doctor to help them by mentioning the exact strategies and steps these people need to follow to get themselves ready for a colonoscopy.


As no two persons are the same, it is difficult to mention an exact time when can a person’s bowel get cleared for colonoscopy. However, one’s stool after finishing the bowel prep can act as a guide whether the bowel is read for colonoscopy or not. Only when the stool is clear, yellow, light, and liquid is the time when that person is ready for a colonoscopy. It could take anywhere from 8 to 16 hours to have clear bowel for the procedure.

Even after one has taken the entire bowel preparation agent but is unable to have clear stools, it is best to consult one’s physician to ask about the further procedure. One might be tempted to skip one or more steps in one’s colonoscopy prep, but remember skipping even one step could affect the entire procedure and ruin all of one’s efforts. Thus, persons intending to undergo colonoscopy should comply with all of the requisite steps to avoid any hurdles during the actual procedure.



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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

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