What is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
A sigmoidoscopy is an internal exam of the lower part of the large intestine (colon) using a short, thin, flexible lighted tube. The tube, called a flexible sigmoidoscope, has a tiny camera at the tip allowing the doctor to view the inside of the rectum and the lower third of the colon. A small biopsy instrument to remove tissue samples to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease can be performed during the examination.
Why is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Done?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy can help your doctor determine the cause of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, chronic diarrhea and other intestinal problems. Your doctor may be able to diagnose the cause of diarrhea, bowel obstruction, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, anal fissures and hemorrhoids, as well as find colon polyps that might be in this lower part of the colon.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy does not allow the doctor to see the entire colon. Therefore, any cancers or polyps farther into the colon cannot be detected with flexible sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy allows the doctor to examine the entire colon.
How Does One Prepare for Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
- Obtain 2 Tap Water Enemas and Milk of Magnesia. (These items may be purchased over the counter in your pharmacy.
- The day before the procedure please take two tablespoons of Milk of Magnesia at 3:00 pm.
- The day of the procedure Take 1 Fleet Enema 2 hours before your arrival time
- The day of the procedure Take the second Fleet Enema 1 hour before your arrival time
- DO NOT EAT OR DRINK ANYTHING SIX HOURS PRIOR TO YOUR PROCEDURE.
How is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Performed?
.The test is done in the doctor’s office or in a hospital endoscopy unit. You may wear a gown or a drape over your lower body.
- The procedure takes 15 minutes or longer.
- The doctor performs a digital rectal exam to check for anal and rectal problems. The rectum is lubricated and the scope inserted.
- You may feel as if you have to have a bowel movement during the test. Do not be alarmed. It’s okay to pass some gas during the procedure to get relief.
What Happens After a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is Done?
- Usually you’ll discuss the results with your doctor right away, unless you’re having other tests.
- Try to pass all the gas right after the test. Otherwise you may have bloating and cramping.
- After the test you can go back to your normal eating and other activities.
- Call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms: pain in your abdomen, fever, excessive rectal bleeding (slight bleeding or spotting is okay)
What are the Risks Associated with Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
Overall, the risks associated with flexible sigmoidoscopy are low. Bleeding can occur from a biopsy or removal of a polyp or growth from the colonoscopy, but such bleeding often stops on its own or can be controlled through the colonoscopy. Perforation (a hole or a deep tear in the lining of the colon or rectum) may require surgery, but this is an uncommon complication. Injury to other organs such as the spleen can occur, but is very rare.