Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?

This is a procedure used to see inside the rectum and the sigmoid colon which is the lower portion of the large intestine.  It is different from a colonoscopy in that only about one third of the colon is examined rather than the entire large colon.   It requires less time and can be performed with or without anesthesia which is a decision you and your doctor can make together. 


The procedure itself…

You will be lying on your left side on a stretcher for this procedure.  A long, flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is placed into the anus and is slowly guided through the rectum and into the sigmoid colon.  A small camera is mounted in the scope and it transmits a video image from inside the colon to a monitor, allowing the endoscopy team to carefully examine the tissues lining the sigmoid colon and rectum.  Biopsies and removal of polyps can be performed during a sigmoidoscopy using special tools through the scope. 


A flexible sigmoidoscopy takes about 10 minutes.  Cramping or bloating may occur following the procedure.  Bleeding and puncture of the large intestine are possible but uncommon complications.  Discharge instructions should be carefully read and followed. 


If any of the following rare side effects should occur you should contact your doctor immediately:

  • severe abdominal pain
  • fever
  • bloody bowel movements
  • dizziness
  • weakness

Important points to remember:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to see only the rectum and the sigmoid colon
  • Follow your doctors instructions for diet and bowel preparation before the exam
  • You will need to have a driver with you if you are given anesthesia for this procedure and will not be allowed to drive or return to work for 24 hours


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