Similar to a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy allows your doctor to examine the lining of your rectum and a smaller portion of your colon. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and high definition video camera into your rectum and colon. Typically, a shorter, narrower endoscope is used, and a number of instruments may be utilized during the procedure to sample abnormalities, remove polyps, or stretch narrow areas. The test might be ordered to evaluate symptoms such as rectal pain or bleeding, or a change in bowel habits that could indicate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis).
Prior to a sigmoidoscopy, you must empty all waste from your colon. This will allow your doctor to fully evaluate the colon lining for polyps or other abnormalities. We may also ask you to temporarily stop some medications, such as blood thinners, before your procedure. Your physician will instruct you which preparation to use to completely empty your bowel.
Download the colonoscopy preparation instructions requested by your doctor for detailed specifics.
What to Expect
Plan to arrive 60–90 minutes before your scheduled procedure time. You must be accompanied by a driver, who must remain at the endoscopy center during the procedure. A peripheral IV will be inserted into your arm, to provide medications and fluids during the procedure. In a private procedure room you will receive medication to make you comfortable and sleepy (propofol). You will likely sleep through the entire procedure and should not feel any discomfort. The procedure will take approximately 30 minutes, and afterwards you will be brought to our recovery suite. Your doctor will review the findings from the procedure and provide a written report with photographs.
Following the procedure, you may feel bloating or gas distention which typically subsides after passing gas. You may also experience temporary cramping. The sedation that you received will rapidly wear off, but you may be slightly groggy after the procedure.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a very safe procedure. However, there are certain risks, including:
- Bleeding: You may experience bleeding if your doctor removes large or multiple polyps. This is estimated to occur in less than 1% of procedures when a polyp is removed.
- Injury to the bowel: This is extremely rare, estimated to occur once in every 10,000 procedures.
- Abnormal reaction to the sedation or breathing difficulty.