Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What is a Sigmoidoscopy?

Sigmoidoscopy is the visual examination of the inside of the rectum and sigmoid colon, using a lighted, flexible tube connected to an eyepiece or video screen for viewing. During a sigmoidoscopy, only the last 1 to 2 feet of the colon are examined.

What to Expect

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is usually performed on an outpatient basis. You will be asked to sign a consent authorizing the procedure. Sedation is not usually required. Bloating and bowel distention is common during the procedure due to the air inflated into the bowel. If biopsies are done or if a polyp is removed, there may be some spotting of blood. However, this is rarely serious. Other uncommon risks include a diagnostic error or oversight, or a tear (perforation) of the wall of the colon which might require surgery.


During the Procedure

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually performed with the patient lying on the left side with the legs drawn up. When the endoscope is gently inserted into the rectum and colon, air is inflated into the bowel to expand it and allow for careful examination. The patient usually feels a slight discomfort similar to strong gas cramps. The instrument is advanced as far as possible without causing undue discomfort. When possible, the exam is continued to 25 inches (60 cm.) The exam usually takes 5 to 15 minutes.

A biopsy (a tiny bit of tissue from the lining of the colon) may be taken for microscopic examination. You will feel no discomfort when the biopsy is done. The specimen is sent to a pathologist for examination.


After the Procedure

You will be moved to a recovery room where your family may join you. Your physician will then discuss the procedure with you.

Any discomfort following the procedure is generally limited to bloating and gas cramps. You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving your doctor’s office or the hospital.

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