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What is Bisacodyl?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Bisacodyl is a short-term laxative used to treat occasional bouts of constipation. This medication may also be used to help empty the bowels before various medical procedures or surgery. Bisacodyl is available both with and without a prescription and comes in the form of a tablet, suppository, or enema. The patient should tell the doctor about any current medications that are being used, as certain medications, such as aspirin, may react negatively to bisacodyl. Potential side effects of bisacodyl may include stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea.

Bisacodyl tablets are generally taken the night before a medical procedure or examination and tend to produce a bowel movement within six to eight hours of being taken. These tablets should be swallowed whole and should never be crushed or chewed. These tablets should not be taken within one hour of using antacids or drinking milk. If a procedure known as a barium enema has been scheduled, the patient should not eat after taking this medication.

Bisacodyl suppositories generally produce a bowel movement within 15 minutes to one hour. The suppositories are removed from the wrapper and then dipped into warm water. The patient then lies on the left side with the knees pulled up toward the chest. The suppository is then gently inserted into the rectum and held in place for several seconds before being released. The patient should wash hands thoroughly after inserting the suppository.

Enemas containing bisacodyl normally produce a bowel movement within five minutes. The patient should shake the bottle well before removing the protective tip. The enema is used in much the same way as the suppository, with the patient gently squeezing the bottle until most of the liquid has been released into the rectum. The contents of the bottle should be held inside the rectum as long as possible. Proper hand washing should occur after the use of the enema.

Some mild side effects of this type of medication are common. Stomach cramps or pain may occur as the medication begins to work and should subside once a bowel movement is achieved. Nausea or a feeling of faintness may also be present as the bowels begin to move. These symptoms should go away after the bowel movement occurs. If symptoms are severe or persist after the bowels have been emptied or if a bowel movement does not occur after using this medication, a doctor should be consulted right away.

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