||Understanding Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of the
rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine) by inserting a
flexible tube about the thickness of your finger into the anus and
slowly advancing it into the rectum and lower part of the colon. If
your doctor has recommended a flexible sigmoidoscopy, this brochure
will give you a basic understanding of the procedure - how it is performed,
how it can help, and what side effects you might experience. It can't
answer all of your questions, since a lot depends of the individual
patient and the doctor.
Please ask your doctor about anything you don't understand.
What preparation is required?
Your doctor will tell you what cleansing routine to use. In general,
preparation consists of one or two enemas prior to the procedure but
could include laxatives or dietary modifications as well. However,
in some circumstances your doctor might advise you to forgo any special
preparation. Because the rectum and lower colon must be completely
empty for the procedure to be accurate, it's important to follow your
doctor's instructions carefully.
Should I continue my current medications?
Most medications can be continued as usual. Inform your doctor about
medications that you're taking - particularly aspirin products or
anticoagulants (blood thinners) -- as well as any allergies you have
to medications. Also, tell your doctor if you require antibiotics
prior to dental procedures, because you might need antibiotics prior
to sigmoidoscopy as well.
What can I expect during flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well-tolerated. You might experience
a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure.
You will lie on your side while your doctor advances the sigmoidoscope
through the rectum and colon. As your doctor withdraws the instrument,
your doctor will carefully examine the lining of the intestine.
What if the flexible sigmoidoscopy finds something abnormal?
If your doctor sees an area that needs further evaluation, your doctor
might take a biopsy (sample of the colon lining) to be analyzed. Biopsies
are used to identify many conditions, and your doctor might order
one even if he or she doesn't suspect cancer. If your doctor finds
polyps, he or she might take a biopsy of them as well. Polyps, which
are growths from the lining of the colon, vary in size and types.
Polyps known as "hyperplastic" might not require removal,
but benign polyps known as "adenomas" are potentially precancerous.
Your doctor might ask you to have a colonoscopy (a complete examination
of the colon) to remove any large polyps or any small adenomas.
What happens after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Your doctor will explain the results to you when the procedure is
done. You might feel bloating or some mild cramping because of the
air that was passed into the colon during the examination. This will
disappear quickly when you pass gas. You should be able to eat and
resume your normal activities after leaving your doctor's office or
the hospital, assuming you did not receive any sedative medication.
What are possible complications of flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are safe when performed by doctors
who are specially trained and experienced in these endoscopic procedures.
Complications are rare, but it's important for you to recognize early
signs of possible complications. Contact your doctor if you notice
severe abdominal pain, fevers and chills, or rectal bleeding of more
than one-half cup. Note that rectal bleeding can occur several days
after the biopsy. ASGE Patient Education brochures are available for
purchase in packs of 50. Download order form.
ASGE - The Source for Colonoscopy and Endoscopy
The preceding information is intended only to provide general information
and not as a definitive basis for diagnosis or treatment in any particular
case. It is very important that you consult your doctor about your