What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
The sigmoid segment of the colon is located just beyond the rectum. The exam will begin with the doctor doing a rectal exam to feel for any problems in the rectum. A lighted, flexible scope will then be inserted into the rectum and travel up the length of the sigmoid colon. During the exam the physician is able to examine the lower colon for lesions or abnormalities. Any abnormalities can be removed or biopsied during the exam.
Do I need a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Common indications for this exam include:
- Unexplained abdominal pain
- Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
- Changes in bowel habits, constipation or diarrhea
- Unexplained weight loss or fever
How do I schedule a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Scheduling is done through your physician’s office. They will provide you with the date and time of the procedure, and review the bowel preparation you'll need to do prior to the exam.
How do I prepare for the exam?
Preparation consists of two fleet enemas, which can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. One is done two hours prior to leaving your home for the exam, and the other one hour before departure. This is done at home by the patient. Do not eat for eight hours prior to the exam. You may continue to drink fluids and take your routine medications.
What should I bring with me to the exam?
- A responsible driver!! If you choose to receive sedation during the exam you must have a driver. The medications you are given can impair your judgment and reflexes for several hours. We ask that you do not conduct business, sign legal documents, or drive vehicles/equipment for 24 hours after the exam. If you do not have a driver and want sedation you will be given the option to have the exam without medications or to reschedule the test.
- A current list of prescription and over the counter medications. Be sure to include the dose and number of times a day you take each medication. We will also want to know when you have taken your most recent dose. If you use an inhaler, bring it along.
- List of known medication, food, and/or latex allergies.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.
- Leave as much jewelry and valuables at home as possible. Please do not wear fragrances to your exam.
- A photo ID, such as a driver’s license and all insurance cards. These items are needed regardless of whether you have registered in advance; they help insure proper billing of your exam.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: day of procedure
Your arrival time should be given to you by you physician’s office. Once you arrive, you will need to register at the receptionist’s desk. From there, our nursing staff will bring you back to finish your admission. In the exam room you will lie on your left side. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels will be monitored during the exam and recovery periods. You will be given medication to help you relax and minimize discomfort, if you choose.
The doctor will then insert a flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope) into your rectum and guide it through the sigmoid portion of your colon. Air is used to dilate the colon walls to help with visualization. You may feel some bloating, pressure, or cramping as a result. The doctor will be able to remove any abnormal growths, such as polyps, or take a tissue sample (biopsy) if warranted. The instruments needed for this pass through the scope already in place. Following the exam there is a recovery period during which there is continued monitoring of vital signs and discharge instructions are reviewed.
While a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a safe procedure, there can be serious complications less than one percent of the time. Rarely, some people experience fever, blood in stools, severe abdominal pain or shortness of breath. If you are having any of these side effects, contact your physician immediately. You will be given written discharge instructions following your exam.
The exam itself takes approximately 15-30 minutes. Please plan on being in our department for two to three hours, from admission to discharge.