Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a minimally invasive examination of the lining of the lower large intestine to evaluate GI symptoms.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

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Experiencing GI Symptoms?

Minimally invasive and quick, this procedure is used to evaluate a wide variety of gastrointestinal symptoms.

What Is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a minimally invasive examination of the lining of the lower large intestine to evaluate GI symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits. A sigmoidoscope is used to perform this procedure. It is a long, flexible, tubular instrument – in essence, a shorter version of the scope used during a colonoscopy. It is seldom used just for a colon cancer screening, as a colonoscopy is more comprehensive.

How Do I Prepare for My Procedure?

To prepare for your procedure, please make sure to talk to your physician about any medical conditions for which you take prescription or over-the-counter medications that include:

  • Arthritis medications
  • Aspirin or medications that contain aspirin
  • Blood thinners
  • Diabetes medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Vitamins that contain iron or iron supplements

In addition, prior to your procedure, the rectum and the lower colon must be completely cleansed of stool in order to obtain accurate results. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to cleanse your colon.

How Is the Procedure Performed?

During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, your GI physician inserts a sigmoid scope into the anus and guides it through the rectum and into the sigmoid colon. The scope inflates the colon with air to give your doctor a better view. The camera sends a video image of the intestinal lining to a monitor, allowing the physician to examine the tissues lining the sigmoid colon and rectum. Once the scope reaches the furthest point it can comfortably reach, your physician will withdraw it while examining the lining of the colon again, but in greater detail this time.

Small polyps may be removed during the exam, or a tissue sample (biopsy) taken to be assessed in a lab. Depending on the results, a more comprehensive colonoscopy or other testing might be advised.

Sedation is not usually required for a flexible sigmoidoscopy – but it will depend on the reason for the procedure and other factors.

What Can I Expect After My Procedure?

After a flexible sigmoidoscopy, you should be able to resume your regular activities and diet. You may experience slight abdominal cramping or bloating during the first hour after the test.

How Long Does the Procedure Take and Where Will It Take Place?

A sigmoidoscopy exam takes 20 to 30 minutes, with the procedure itself taking up just 10 minutes or less of that time. Your physician typically performs a flexible sigmoidoscopy during an office visit or at a endoscopy center.

What Are the Risks Involved With the Procedure?

Risks of a flexible sigmoidoscopy are rare and usually minor. When complications do occur, they may include bleeding, a tear in the lining of the colon, and abdominal pain. Any unexpected symptoms after the procedure should be reported promptly to your physician.

What Are My Alternatives to This Procedure?

A colonoscopy is a much more comprehensive exam and is the preferred method of screening for polyps or colon cancer. A barium enema followed by X-rays or a CAT scan are alternative methods of assessing the large bowel. However, these options don’t reveal details of the interior lining of the colon – and do not allow tissue samples to be taken or for polyps to be removed.

Do you require a flexible sigmoidoscopy? Contact the GI experts at inSite Digestive Health Care by calling the location nearest you.