Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an outpatient procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lower part of the large intestine for abnormalities. A flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms, like rectal and intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits.

Before the procedure

For the test to be effective, the lower part of the colon must be empty and clean. Your doctor will ask you to take enemas to clean out the lower part of the colon. Make sure to follow the instructions provided by the doctor’s office.
In most instances a flexible sigmoidoscopy will include:

  • A discussion of the risks of the procedure will be discussed before proceeding.
  • You will wear a hospital gown and an IV will be started.
  • You will be given sedation to allow the doctor to complete the procedure safely.
  • You will lie on your left side, with your knees drawn up towards your chest.
  • The procedure will last from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

During the procedure

A flexible sigmoidoscopy lets your doctor examine the inside of your lower digestive tract. Your doctor will use a flexible sigmoidoscope (instrument with a camera and light on its end) to look for abnormalities that may be present. The scope is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the lower part of the large intestine while the patient is under sedation.

During the procedure, the doctor might take a biopsy or remove polyps. Polyps are growths of tissue that are typically benign. Some polyps can become cancerous if not removed. Having polyp removed does not cause any pain. A flexible sigmoidoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment of colorectal problems in a minimally invasive fashion.

After the procedure

You will be monitored until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off. Your doctor will explain the results of the examination to you. If biopsies were performed you will have to wait a few days for those results to become available. You must have a driver take you home.

Does it hurt?

No, flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually not painful. Almost all flexible sigmoidoscopies can be performed using “intravenous sedation” or “twilight sedation” in which you are very drowsy, but comfortable and still breathing on your own. The most common type of sedation also has a mild amnesiac effect, so most patients do not even remember the procedure. Your doctor can discuss with you the best form of sedation to suit your needs.

What to expect

When your procedure is scheduled you will receive detailed instructions regarding what you need to do to prepare for the procedure. Please make sure you read them carefully and follow as instructed.

Make sure you arrive to the procedure site at the time specified by your doctor.

Is the procedure safe?

Any procedure carries a small amount of risk and potential complications. These risks will be discussed with you in detail prior to the procedure and before the patient provides consent. Some of the risks with a flexible sigmoidoscopy include:

  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Perforation or creating a hole in the bowel

Contact us

Our team remains available to answer your questions anytime beyond your clinic visit. Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to learn more about flexible sigmoidoscopies.