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flexible sigmoidoscopy

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy lets the doctor look at the inside of the large intestine from the rectum through the last part of the colon, called the sigmoid or descending colon. Doctors may use the procedure to find the cause of diarrhea, abdominal pain, or constipation. They also use it to look for early signs of cancer in the descending colon and rectum.

Using a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor can see bleeding, inflammation, abnormal growths, and ulcers in the descending colon and rectum. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is not sufficient to detect polyps or cancer in the ascending or transverse colon (two-thirds of the colon).

What happens during a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. The doctor will insert a short, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a sigmoidoscope. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the rectum and colon, so the doctor can examine the lining of these organs. The scope also blows air into these organs, which inflates them and helps the doctor to see better.

If anything unusual is in your rectum or colon, like a polyp or inflamed tissue, the doctor can remove a piece of it using instruments inserted into the scope. The doctor will then send that piece of tissue (biopsy) to the lab for testing.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy takes 10 to 20 minutes. During the procedure, you might feel pressure and slight cramping in your lower abdomen. You will feel better afterward when the air leaves your colon.

How do you prepare for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

The colon and rectum must be completely empty for flexible sigmoidoscopy to be thorough and safe, so the doctor will probably tell you to drink only clear liquids for 12 to 24 hours beforehand. This means things such as gelatin, strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea, or diet soda.

The night before or right before the procedure, you may also be given an enema, which is a liquid solution that washes out the intestines. Your physician may give you other special instructions.

What results will I have if I am suffering from IBS?

If you have IBS then the results will be negative, ie: no inflammation or abnormalities will be found.

flexible sigmoidoscopy experiences

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although some people find these tests uncomfortable and occasionally painful, they are vital diagnostic tools. I would always recommend having any and all of these tests if they are recommended by your doctor. You should also make sure you follow your doctor's preparation instructions carefully.

The tale of...Jennifer

I had mine yesterday. I was very apprehensive and nervous before I went, I have a vivid imagination and was expecting major pain. For all others like me, I must say that the procedure was just a tiny bit uncomfortable, and honestly nothing to worry about.


The tale of...Amanda

I was very nervous before the sigmoidoscopy but I have to say the experience was a lot better than I thought it would be. The nurses chatted away to put me at my ease and it was almost possible at first to forget what was about to happen. When the doctor announced he was going to insert the tube I tensed a little but the sensation was certainly bearable.

When the air was put in I felt a cramping sensation rather like a mild period pain but nothing more. I had a quick look at the screen but for no more than a few seconds. I personally did not feel any 'bumps' as the procedure was carried out. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and really was nothing to worry about.


The tale of...David

I had mine yesterday. I was given the option of a sedative but since the effects last for up to 24 hours I declined. It is a bit painful when it comes to the corners and at this point when I was wincing a bit one of the staff held my hand and talked to me to take my mind off it.

I also watched it on the display and found that quite interesting. As the camera is inserted air is also blown through the instrument and you are encouraged to pass wind. This is a bit embarrassing for you as a patient but fear not, the staff expect it and you would get severe cramps if you did not! Overall it was not an experience I would like to go through again but it was worth it for the peace of mind.