Harvard Health Letter

From our follow-up files

Editor's note: We try to make the articles in the Health Letter as complete as possible. But hardly a day goes by when there isn't an opportunity for some follow-up to a piece we've published: new findings get reported, a reader asks an interesting question, a doctor passes along an insight. Here are brief follow-ups to three recent articles. Let us know what you think — if readers like this approach, we'll do it again.

Good news: Bowel prep not needed

We discussed the bowel preparation needed for colonoscopy in our January 2010 issue.

But colonoscopy isn't the only reason people go through the bowel-cleansing ordeal. Surgical procedures that involve the large intestine also often come with orders to clear out the colon beforehand — and, as with colonoscopy, the standard way of doing so involves drinking about a gallon of polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution. It wouldn't occur to most of us to question the need for this preparation. An empty colon would seem to be easier — and safer — to operate on than a full one. And what's a little extra time in the bathroom in the run-up to major surgery?

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