What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the inside of the rectum and the lower part of the colon (large intestine). A thin, flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted into the rectum and advanced into the colon. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to examine the lining of the lower 30 inches of the colon.
Why should I have a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is done for several reasons. One is to evaluate symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or change in bowel habits. Another reason is to detect colon polyps or colon cancer. If polyps are detected, they may be removed in a later procedure (Colonoscopy), which helps prevent cancer.
What happens during your Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
You'll begin the exam lying on your left side on the exam table, usually with your knees drawn toward your chest. The doctor will insert a sigmoidoscope into your rectum. The video camera at the tip of the scope sends images to an external monitor so that the doctor can study the inside of your colon. The sigmoidoscope also contains a light and a tube (channel) that allows the doctor to pump air into your colon. The air inflates the colon, which provides a better view of the lining of the colon. When the scope is moved or air is introduced, you may feel abdominal cramping or the urge to have a bowel movement.
How do I prepare for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
There are no diet or fluid restrictions before a flexible sigmoidoscopy. However, your bowel must be cleansed in order for the intestinal walls to be seen and the sigmoidoscopy to be successful. You will receive 2 enemas before the procedure since the rectum and lower intestine must be empty. You will need to try to hold the enema solution for at least five minutes before releasing it. On the day of your flexible sigmoidoscopy, take one enema two hours before the exam and another an hour before your exam.
After the exam
After the exam, you may have mild abdominal discomfort. You may feel bloated or pass gas for a few hours as you clear the air from your colon. Walking may help relieve any discomfort. You'll be able to return to your usual diet and activities right away.
When can I get results?
Immediately following your exam, your doctor will explain the results. Any biopsies taken or polyps removed during the exam will be sent to a laboratory where a pathological study of the specimen will be done. Accurate results often take one week or more. You will be notified of the results of these tests. You will receive a separate charge from the laboratory for such studies.
What are the risks of Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
Sigmoidoscopy is a safe procedure with very low risk when performed by doctors who are trained and experienced. However, there are rare complications, such as:
- Perforation ( a tear)
It is important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you begin to run a fever over 100 degrees, have large amounts of bleeding from your rectum (greater than 2 tablespoons), or severe abdominal pain, let your doctor know immediately.