Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What you should know about flexible sigmoidoscopy

What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of your rectum and part of your large intestine or colon by inserting a flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope into your anus and slowly advancing it into your rectum and lower part of your colon.

What preparation is required?

Your doctor will tell you what cleansing routine to use. In general, preparation consists of one or two enemas before the procedure but could include laxatives or dietary modifications as well.

In some cases your doctor might advise you not to do any special preparation. Because your rectum and lower colon must be completely empty for the procedure to be accurate, you should follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

What can I expect during a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

You might experience a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure. You’ll lie on your side while your doctor advances the sigmoidoscope through your rectum and colon. As your doctor withdraws the instrument, they’ll carefully examine the lining of your intestine.

What if the flexible sigmoidoscopy finds something abnormal?

If your doctor sees an area that needs further evaluation, they might take a biopsy or tissue sample to be analyzed. Obtaining a biopsy causes no pain or discomfort. Biopsies are used to identify many conditions, and your doctor might order one even if they don’t suspect cancer.

If your doctor finds polyps, they might take a biopsy of them as well. Polyps, which are growths from the lining of your colon, vary in size and type. Some polyps might not require removal, but non-cancerous polyps called adenomas have a small risk of becoming cancerous. Your doctor will probably ask you to have a colonoscopy to remove any large polyps or small adenomas.

What happens after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Your doctor will explain the results to you when the procedure is done. You might feel bloating or some mild cramping because of the air that was passed into your colon during the exam. This will disappear quickly when you pass gas.

You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving your doctor's office or the hospital, assuming you didn’t receive any sedative.

What are possible complications?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are safe when performed by doctors specially trained and experienced in these endoscopic procedures. Complications are rare, but contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fevers and chills, or rectal bleeding. Note that rectal bleeding can occur several days after the exam.