Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

The term flexible sigmoidoscopy refers to a medical procedure during which a flexible tube look inside the rectum and part of the colon. It is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist, a well-trained specialist. There is a tiny video camera and a light on the end of the colonoscope. By adjusting the various controls on the colonoscope, the gastroenterologist can carefully guide the instrument in any direction to look at the inside of the rectum and lower part of the colon. The high-quality picture from the colonoscope is shown on a TV monitor, and gives a clear, detailed view.

Before the Procedure

You may need to restrict the diet before the procedure. Check your instructions about what to eat or drink the night before your flexible sigmoidsocopy and when to stop eating. Consult your doctor prior to the procedure to determine if the medications you are on should be taken or not prior to the flexible sigmoidoscopy. In general, one to two enemas can clean the lower part of the colon.

During the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be done in a hospital, special outpatient surgical center or a physician’s office. You will be asked to sign a form which verifies that you consent to having the procedure and that you understand what is involved. If there is anything you do not understand, ask for more information.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a well tolerated procedure. Colonoscope will be gently inserted via the anus and enter the rectum and lower part of the colon. You may feel as if you need to move your bowels, and because air is introduced to help advance the scope, you may feel some cramping or fullness. Generally, however, there is little or no discomfort. The time needed for flexible sigmoidoscopy will vary, depending in part on what is found and what is done; on average, the procedure takes about 15 minutes.

Possible Complications

Although flexible sigmoidoscopy is a safe procedure, complications can occur, including perforation or puncture of the colon walls, which could require surgical repair. Complications during a flexible sigmoidoscopy are rare. You should also be aware that colonoscopy is not perfect and even with a skilled physician, some colon lesions (abnormalities) might be missed.

When polyp removal or biopsy is performed, hemorrhage — heavy bleeding — may result and sometimes require blood transfusion or reinsertion of the colonoscope to control the bleeding. Be sure to discuss any specific concerns you may have about the procedure with your doctor.

After the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Occasionally, minor problems may persist, such as bloating, gas or mild cramping, which should disappear in 24 hours or less.