Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a thin tube to examine and evaluate the sigmoid colon and rectum.  The instrument has its own lens and light source.

The sigmoidoscopy is different from a colonoscopy in that, it only allows the physician to see the sigmoid colon (lower one-third). This exam can detect inflamed tissue, ulcers and other abnormal growths. The preparation for this exam, usually requires a laxative and fleet enemas. A colonoscopy remains the “gold standard” for colon cancer screening.

Why it’s done

Back to top

The sigmoidoscopy is used to diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, bleeding from the anus, diarrhea, and other intestinal problems. It is also used to screen for colon cancer in conjunction with other tests (not on its own).

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Preparation

Back to top

flexible-sigmoidoscopyThe doctor will give you instructions to use one or two enemas about 2 hours before the procedure. This will remove all solids from the lower (sigmoid) colon. The enemas may contain a mild soap solution or laxative. Sometimes, the doctor will want you to completely empty the gastrointestinal tract. This would be accomplished with a clear diet for 1 day prior to the exam and in some cases, a laxative may also be ordered. You should also avoid red or purple dye beverages. Liquid diet can include:

  • fat-free bouillon or broth
  • water
  • plain coffee or tea
  • strained fruit juice
  • gelatin (not red or orange)
  • sports drinks such as Gatorade

You may be asked to limit your medications such as:

  • aspirin
  • arthritis medications
  • blood thinners
  • diabetes medications
  • vitamins containing iron

During the exam, you will wear a gown and lie on your side. Sedation is not usually necessary. A small, thin, flexible tube will be inserted into the rectum. The sigmoidscope allows the doctor to pump air into the colon, which will provide a better view of the colon. You may feel some cramping or the urge to have a bowel movement after the scope is removed. The exam takes about 20 minutes.

There are rarely side effects from this exam, but if you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • fever
  • bloody bowel movements
  • dizziness
  • severe abdominal pain
  • weakness