Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What Is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that enables your physician to examine the lining of the rectum and lower colon (bowel). A soft, flexible scope about the thickness of the index finger is gently inserted into the anus (rectal opening) and advanced or moved into the rectum and the lower part of the colon.

When And Why Is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Performed?

It is most often done as part of a routine screening for cancer for patients over 50 years old.

What Preparation Is Required?

The rectum and lower colon must be completely emptied of stool (feces) for the procedure to be performed. Your doctor or his/her staff will give you instructions regarding the cleansing routine to be used. If the area to be examined is not totally clear, the doctor will not be able to perform an effective examination. Be sure to follow your doctor’s preparation instructions.

Most of your medications can be continued as usual. However, drugs such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and blood thinners are examples of medications whose use should be discussed with your doctor prior to the examination.

What Can Be Expected During The Procedure?

You will be awake during the procedure. Occasionally, your doctor may give you some light sedation. The procedure is usually well tolerated and rarely causes discomfort. The inside of the colon has few nerve endings; therefore, it is unusual to feel the scope moving within the body. Air is injected to distend or widen the passage. This may cause a feeling of pressure, gassiness, bloating, or cramping during the procedure. You will lie on your side while the sigmoidoscope is advanced through the rectum and lower colon. The lining of the intestine is examined carefully and biopsies can be taken if necessary. The procedure usually lasts for five to fifteen minutes. If there is extreme discomfort, you should tell your doctor and the procedure will be terminated.

Are There Complications Of Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are safe when performed by physicians with appropriate training and experience in endoscopic procedures. Complications are rare, however, they can occur. They include bleeding from the site of a biopsy or a perforation, which is a tear through the lining of the bowel wall. It is important to contact your doctor if you notice symptoms of severe abdominal pain, abdominal distension, nausea, fever, chills, or rectal bleeding equal to more than half a cup. Bleeding can occur up to several days after a biopsy.

After your Procedure

How will I feel after the procedure?

You may feel back to normal, euphoric, or very sleepy. Most patients report that they go home and take a nap and resume regular activities the next day.

The sedation used during your exam impairs judgment, memory, and equilibrium. We cannot perform this procedure unless we know that you will arrive home safely, so please bring a friend or family member with you:

You will not be permitted to drive, operate machinery, make critical decisions, drink alcoholic beverages, or do activities that require coordination or balance for 24 hours.

 If you had a colonoscopy, you may not have a bowel movement for 1-3 days because of the colonoscopy prep. This is normal. Because air was put into your colon during the procedure, you may experience cramping, bloating and expelling large amounts of air from your rectum. This is normal for the first 24 hours.
If you had an Upper Endoscopy (EGD), you may experience a sore throat for 24 to 48 hours. Because air was put into your stomach during the procedure, you may experience some belching.

Except for these restrictions, you may resume your normal diet unless directed otherwise by your physician. Your physician may give you additional instructions at the time of discharge.


Will I talk with the physician after the procedure?

Yes. Your physician will write his/her findings and instructions on the post-procedure instruction sheet, and a nurse will go over all the findings and instructions with you. Your physician will request a follow-up appointment, write you a note, or call you with the results of the exam. (It takes approximately 5 days for your physician to get a report from a pathologist if biopsies or polyps were taken.)

Other Questions

If you have any questions please contact your physician  and your doctor will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

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