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Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that enables your physician to examine the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large bowel). This is done by inserting a flexible tube, that is about the thickness of your finger, into the anus and advancing it slowly into the rectum and lower part of the colon.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What to Expect

An endoscopic ultrasound is a way for doctors to examine your gastrointestinal tract. Most doctors will administer a sedative to help you relax. It is likely that you will be asked to lay on your left side. After the sedatives have taken effect, the endoscopist passes the ultrasound endoscope through either your mouth or anus.While most patients fall asleep during the procedure, a few consider it mildly uncomfortable. A lot of patients do not even remember it at all. The test should only last about an hour. The small ultrasound device produces sound waves that will create an image of the tissue in the GI tract. Once the images have been created, the endoscope is gradually removed.

Applicable Conditions

Most medications may be continued as usual. You should inform your physician of all current medications, as well as any allergies to medications, several days prior to examination. However, drugs such as aspirin or anticoagulants (blood thinners) are examples of medications whose use should be discussed with your physician.

The rectum and lower colon must be completely empty of waste materials for the procedure to be accurate and complete. Your physician will give you detailed instructions regarding the cleansing routine to be used. In general, preparation consists of one or two enemas prior to the procedure, but may include laxative or dietary modifications. In some circumstances, for example if you have acute diarrhea or colitis, your physician may advise you to forego any special preparation before the examination.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well tolerated and rarely causes much pain. There is often a feeling of pressure, bloating, or cramping at various times during the procedure. You will be lying on your side while the sigmoidoscope is advanced slowly through the rectum and colon. As the instrument is slowly withdrawn, the lining of the intestine is carefully examined. The procedure usually takes 5-15 minutes.

If your doctor sees an area that needs evaluation in greater detail, a biopsy (a sample of colon lining) may be obtained and submitted to the laboratory for greater analysis. If polyps (growths from the lining of the colon which vary in size) are found, they can be biopsied or removed at the time of sigmoidoscopy. There are varying types of polyps.Certain polys, known as “adenomas” are potentially precancerous. Certain other polyps (“hyperplastic” by biopsy analysis) may not require removal. Your doctor will likely request that you have a colonoscopy (a complete examination of the colon) to remove any large polyp that is found, or any small polyp that is found to be adenomatous after biopsy analysis.

After sigmoidoscopy, your physician will explain the results to you. You may have some mild cramping or bloating sensation because of the air that passed into the colon during the examination. This should disappear quickly with the passage of flatus (gas). You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving the doctor’s office or hospital. If sedation was used, you will not be permitted to drive for the remainder of the day.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are generally safe when performed by physicians who have been specially trained and are experienced in these endoscopic procedures.

Possible complications after flexible sigmoidoscopy are rare. It is important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact your physician if you notice any of the following symptoms: severe abdominal pain, fever and/or chills, or rectal bleeding of more than 1/2 cup. It is important to note that rectal bleeding can occur several days after the biopsy.

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