A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an exam of the rectum and lower colon (large intestine). The exam is done with a thin tube called a scope. The scope has a tiny camera on the end. It allows the doctor to see inside the rectum and colon.
Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
Cleaning out the colon
The doctor may give a sedative. You will feel relaxed.
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will do a rectal exam. The scope will then be slowly inserted into the rectum. The doctor will pass the scope through the rectum and into the colon. It will inject air into the colon to open the area. The camera on the scope will send images to a monitor in the room. The doctor will be able to see the walls of the colon as the scope moves through.
Other tools can be passed through the scope. The tools may remove a sample of tissue or polyps. The tissue can then be sent for testing. The scope will be removed once the doctor is done.
How Long Will It Take?
About 20 to 30 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
There may be some discomfort when the scope is inserted. Some cramping or lower belly pain can happen during the procedure. Medicine will help to ease discomfort. Some will sleep through the procedure.
Gas pains and cramping are common after. These pains should go away with the passing of gas.
Most can go home after 1 to 2 hours. It will take the rest of the day to recover.
There may be a small amount of bleeding during the first few days after the procedure.
It may take 1 to 2 weeks to get results back from tissue sample. Other tests may be needed.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
Increased bleeding from the rectum
Black, tarry stools
Severe belly pain
Hard, swollen belly
Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
Nausea and vomiting
Problems passing gas or stool
Chest pain or trouble breathing
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/flexible-sigmoidoscopy-for-colorectal-cancer-screening. Accessed February 15, 2021.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/flexible-sigmoidoscopy. Accessed February 15, 2021.
Ko CW, Doria-Rose VP, et al. Screening flexible sigmoidoscopy versus colonoscopy for reduction of colorectal cancer mortality. Int J Colorectal Dis. 2019;34(7):1273-1281.
Understanding flexible sigmoidoscopy. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: https://www.asge.org/list-pages/patient-informations/understanding-flexible-sigmoidoscopy. Accessed February 15, 2021.
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