A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic examination that helps doctors view the lower colon and rectum. Here’s a closer look at the procedure.
Why is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy performed?
Flexible sigmoidoscopies can help doctors determine the cause of symptoms like rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits. Additionally, doctors can use the procedure as a screening tool. They may recommend that people over the age of 50 have these exams on a regular basis to check for signs of colon cancer. While a colonoscopy is often used to do this, the flexible sigmoidoscopy offers a few advantages. For one, it is less involved in terms of preparation and exam time. It also does not typically require an anaesthetic, and it has a lower risk of perforation.
Preparing for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
To prepare for the procedure, you should always talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. Additionally, they will give you instructions for bowel prepping before the exam. A bowel prep helps ensure there is as little stool as possible is present in the intestine during the exam. Doctors usually prescribe a clear liquid diet the day before the exam, and avoiding consuming anything after midnight the day of the exam. The bowel prep may also involve laxatives or enemas. You may need to consume a certain volume of liquid laxative leading up to the procedure. If your doctor prescribes an enema, you should use it the night before the procedure to wash out the rectum.
During the procedure
During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the patient is positioned on their left side with their knees drawn up towards their chest. The doctor first does a digital rectal exam, inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the patient’s rectum to check for anything abnormal. Next, they insert the sigmoidoscope into the rectum. This may feel like pressure to the patient. The doctor then adds air through the sigmoidoscope to expand the colon, allowing them to see more clearly. The sigmoidoscope has a camera on the end of it that gives video feed to a monitor that the doctor views. Lastly, the doctor examines the lining of the bowel while slowly removing the scope. If necessary, they can insert forceps through an empty channel in the sigmoidoscope to take a tissue sample for biopsy. The entire procedure usually takes around 15 minutes.
Following the procedure, patients can expect some mild abdominal discomfort, cramping and bloating for a few hours. Since the procedure is fairly non-invasive, you can return to your normal and activity level immediately. If a biopsy was performed, you may experience some light rectal bleeding from the site of the tissue sample. If the bleeding is persistent, or if you develop a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, contact your doctor.
Your doctor will give you post-exam instruction on home care. They will also discuss the results with you. A negative test is when no abnormalities are found during the procedure. If your doctor finds any polyps or other issues during the exam, it is a positive test. This may lead to further testing, including a full colonoscopy. If a biopsy has been performed, the results are usually available after a few days and are communicated to you by your doctor.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience performing flexible sigmoidoscopies. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.