The risk of infection during or after a colonoscopy is actually very low, so most patients will not need to take any sort of antibiotic for the procedure. In rare cases, some patients that suffer from heart conditions or have artificial heart valves in their bodies may be advised to take antibiotics—though modern medical opinion has deemed it generally unnecessary before colonoscopy. Other patients who should consult their gastroenterologists (GI doctors) about antibiotics include people with liver disorders, people who have had intensive surgery in the past for conditions such as heart failure and aneurysm and people who have artificial joints in place. Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your doctor if you have concerns about complications that can arise from colonoscopy.
Before a colonoscopy, your GI doctor might also instruct you to refrain from taking common over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, about a week before the procedure. The reason for this is that aspirin sometimes causes slight blood-thinning, which can increase the risk of bleeding if a polyp removal must be administered. This precaution is not agreed upon by all doctors. In fact, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has deemed it unnecessary for the prevention of post-procedural bleeding after polyp removal. Therefore patients taking aspirin should consult their doctors before stopping medication.
Other medications that can cause blood-thinning may cause complications during or after a colonoscopy as well. Always consult your medical doctor before ceasing medication, especially if you are taking it on a regular basis for previously-diagnosed conditions. Evaluation of how to proceed with your colonoscopy procedure should be decided on an individual basis and approved by a medical professional—and perhaps even reassured by a second opinion. In many cases, blood-thinning medications have no effect on a regular colonoscopy procedure because many patients do not have large polyps that might bleed. Thus, stopping medication as a precaution and risking other health issues such as heart failure may not be worth it.
Contact a colonoscopy specialist if you need help with antibiotics or other medications before your colonoscopy procedure.
Reviewed 12/14/2011 by David M. Nolan, M.D.
Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, 2011
Currently a Fellow of Gastroenterology, at UCI 2011-2014