- What to Expect
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the rectum and the lower (sigmoid) colon. The flexible sigmoidoscope is a flexible tube 60 cm long and about the thickness of your little finger. It is inserted gently into the anus and advanced slowly into the rectum and the lower colon.
It is an accurate and simple method of investigating the cause of rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, and rectal symptoms such as pain and diarrhea. Flexible sigmoidoscopy also is a part of colon screening and surveillance for colon cancer.
How do I prepare for flexible sigmoidoscopy?
In order to obtain accurate results, the rectum and the lower colon must be completely clean of stool. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to cleanse your colon.
In general, this requires the use of one or two enemas prior to the procedure and may also call for a laxative and some dietary modifications. Under special circumstances, such as the presence of significant diarrhea, the preparation may be waived.
Do I continue my medications for flexible sigmoidoscopy?
- In general, you can continue to take your regular medicines. You should, however, inform your doctor of all the prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking as well as any allergies you may have.
- Certain drugs increase the risk of bleeding if biopsies are performed; these include aspirin, blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), and NSAIDs such as Motrin and Advil. Your doctor may ask you to stop these medications for several days before the procedure.
- You should also alert your doctor if you have an artificial heart valve, hip or knee prosthesis, or have a disease of the heart valves such as mitral stenosis, aortic stenosis, or mitral regurgitation. Patients with these conditions may need antibiotics prior to colonoscopy, or dental procedures to prevent infection of the heart valves or the prosthesis.
What can I expect during flexible sigmoidoscopy?
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy is generally well tolerated and rarely causes any significant pain. There may be a sensation of fullness, bloating, pressure, or cramping during the procedure.
- In most instances, you will be lying on your left side while the instrument is advanced through the rectum and the colon under direct vision on a TV monitor.
- As the instrument is withdrawn, a careful examination is made of the lining of the colon. The procedure usually takes only 5 to 15 minutes.
What if something abnormal is found during flexible sigmoidoscopy?
- If the doctor finds an area in the colon that needs further evaluation, a biopsy (small sample of tissue) can be obtained and sent to the pathology department for examination under a microscope. If a polyp is found, the doctor may remove the polyp at the same time.
- Polyps are small growths on the inner lining of the colon and the rectum. Most polyps are benign (not cancerous), but some polyps are precancerous. Patients with precancerous polyps are usually asked to return for a colonoscopy after a more vigorous colon cleansing.
- Colonoscopy is a longer version of flexible sigmoidoscopy where the doctor examines the entire length of the colon. For more, please read the Colonoscopy article.
- The advantage of colonoscopy over flexible sigmoidoscopy is the ability to find and remove polyps in the parts of colon that are beyond the reach of the flexible sigmoidoscope. Removal of all of the precancerous polyps during colonoscopy has been shown to prevent colon cancer.
What happens after the flexible sigmoidoscopy?
After the procedure, the examiner will explain the findings to you. You may have some residual cramping or bloating because of the air that was instilled into your colon during the procedure. This should quickly disappear with the passage of gas or flatus. It can be expedited by walking about in the room. Under most circumstances, you should be able to resume your regular activities upon leaving the doctor's office or the hospital.
What are the complications of flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are generally safe when the procedure is performed by properly trained individuals. Possible but rare complications include a perforation (making a hole in the wall of the colon) and bleeding from the biopsy site. The former may call for surgery.
Although complications following flexible sigmoidoscopy are rare, it is important to recognize the early signs of any possible complication. Contact your physician or the examiner if you notice any of the following:
- severe abdominal pain,
- fever and/or chills, and
- rectal bleeding of more than a few teaspoons.
If you still have any questions about the procedure, reasons for doing it, alternative tests, costs, and insurance coverage, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor or the staff. Most endoscopists are highly trained specialists and welcome your questions regarding the procedure, and their medical credentials and training.
- Chinese Company May Help Ease U.S. Shortage of Cancer Drug
- Opdivo Could Boost Outcomes for People Battling Hodgkin Lymphoma
- More U.S. Kids, Teens Are Getting Weight-Loss Surgeries
- Could a Nitroglycerin Patch Ease Hot Flashes?
- One Form of Menopause Hormone Therapy Might Raise Blood Pressure
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Related Articles
How to Stop Anal ItchingAnal itching is the irritation of the skin at the exit of the rectum, known as the anus, accompanied by the desire to scratch. Causes include everything from irritating foods we eat, to certain diseases, and infections. Treatment options include over-the-counter medications, using moist pads, and gentle cleaning and drying of the anus.
Can I Eat 24 Hours Before a Colonoscopy?Before a colonoscopy, you should avoid solid foods for at least 24 hours and stick to a clear liquid diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask your doctor about what you can have and when.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Colon Cancer: How Your Food and Diet Can Affect Colorectal Cancer HealthDiet, including nutrient, antioxidant, and vitamin intake, affects colon cancer risk. Certain dietary factors either decrease or increase the risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and other diseases. Dietary factors may either inhibit or stimulate the development of cancer cells. Have a nutrition plan that decreases the risk.
Colon Cancer IllustrationsMost, if not all, of these cancers develop from colonic polyps. Removal of these precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer. See a picture of Colon Cancer and learn more about the health topic.
Colon PolypsColon polyps are fleshy growths inside the colon lining that may become cancerous. Symptoms include rectal bleeding. Learn about causes, signs, treatment, and how to prevent colon cancer.
Colonoscopy Procedure and PreparationA colonoscopy is a procedure whereby a docotor inserts a viewing tube (colonoscope) into the rectum for the purpose of inspecting the colon. Colonoscopy is the best method currently available to diagnose, detect, and treat abnormalities within the colon.
Colorectal (Colon) Cancer QuizWhat is colorectal (colon) cancer and who gets it? Take this quiz to find out how this disease may be prevented.
Colorectal Cancer: What to Expect With a ColonoscopyLearn more about what happens during a colonoscopy, how to prepare for it, and how you’ll feel afterward.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change in the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
Female Screening TestsWhat is a health screening? Why is it important to know your blood pressure? How long will your health screening take? Learn about wellness screenings for women for breast cancer, HIV, diabetes, osteoporosis, skin cancer, and more.
Diverticulitis SlideshowDiverticulitis (diverticulosis) is a condition in which the diverticulum or diverticula rupture in the colon, causing infection. Medical treatments such as antibiotics and surgery can treat diverticulitis (diverticulosis).
Endoscopy vs. ColonoscopyBoth endoscopy and colonoscopy are nonsurgical procedures that involve use of a flexible tube with a light and camera to examine parts of the digestive tract. A colonoscopy is a type of endoscopy.
Hemorrhoids (Internal and External)Hemorrhoids (piles) are swollen veins in the rectum and anus. Causes include pregnancy, obesity, diarrhea, low-fiber diet, and prolonged sitting on the toilet. Treatment varies depending upon the severity of the hemorrhoids. Some treatment options include over-the-counter creams and suppositories, stool softeners, warm sitz baths, and hemorrhoidectomies.
Hydrogen Breath TestThe hydrogen breath test uses the measurement of hydrogen in the breath to diagnose several conditions that cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms diagnosed by the hydrogen breath test include lactose intolerance, celiac disease, small bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, and pancreatic insufficiency.
Is A Colon Resection A Major Surgery?Colon resection (colectomy) is the surgical removal of part or the entire colon. Colectomy is a major surgery and may take up to four hours for completion. Colectomy is performed under general anesthesia and may require hospitalization for up to a week or more.