Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a visual examination of the sigmoid colon and rectum.
It is used to detect ulcers, abnormal growths and inflamed tissue in the colon. This examination can also be used to screen for early signs of colon cancer, and may be recommended to help diagnose the cause of a number of symptoms, such as:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Unexpected weight loss
- Bleeding from the anus
- Abdominal pain
Preparing for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
If your gastroenterologist recommends a flexible sigmoidoscopy, then you will be provided with detailed instructions about how to prepare for the examination.
Prior to the examination your colon must be empty so that your gastroenterologist can view the intestinal wall without obstruction. You may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure. Other methods such as an enema or laxatives may be used to ensure the colon is emptied. Make sure to discuss any medications that you take regularly with your physician as they may need to be adjusted temporarily for this examination.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Procedure
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed in a hospital or outpatient center. During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your left side as your physician inserts a flexible lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope into the anus and slowly guides it through the rectum until it reaches the sigmoid colon. A camera attached to the sigmoidoscope will transmit images to a screen in the examination room, where your physician can evaluate the tissues lining the sigmoid colon and rectum.
If any growths or abnormalities such as colon polyps are discovered within the sigmoid colon or rectum, they can be removed during the course of this examination. A biopsy or tissue sample can also be obtained at this time. Once the scope reaches the transverse colon it is slowly withdrawn. The entire procedure often takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Side Effects and Risks
You may have mild abdominal discomfort or gas pains following the examination as air introduced during the procedure clears from your colon.
Occasionally patients notice a small amount of blood with their first bowel movement following the exam. If bleeding continues, you experience severe, persistent abdominal pain or develop a fever, then contact your gastroenterologist immediately.
Your gastroenterologist will provide you with detailed instructions as well as benefits, risks and possible side effects prior to the examination to ensure that you have a clear understanding of all that is involved with the flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure.
For more information please visit the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.