This information about Flexible Sigmoidoscopy will give you a basic understanding of the procedure – how it is performed, how it can help, and what side effects you might experience. It can’t answer all of your questions, since a lot depends of the individual patient and the doctor. Please ask your doctor about anything you don’t understand.

What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine) by inserting a flexible tube about the thickness of your finger into the anus and slowly advancing it into the rectum and lower part of the colon.

What preparation is required?

Your doctor will tell you what cleansing routine to use. In general, preparation consists of one or two enemas prior to the procedure but could include laxatives or dietary modifications as well. However, in some circumstances your doctor might advise you to forgo any special preparation. Because the rectum and lower colon must be completely empty for the procedure to be accurate, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Should I continue my current medications?

Most medications can be continued as usual. Inform your doctor about medications that you’re taking – particularly aspirin products or anticoagulants (blood thinners) — as well as any allergies you have to medications. Also, tell your doctor if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, because you might need antibiotics prior to sigmoidoscopy as well.

What can I expect during flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well-tolerated. You might experience a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping sensation during the procedure. You will lie on your left side while your doctor advances the sigmoidoscope through the rectum and colon. As your doctor withdraws the instrument, the lining of the intestine will be carefully examined.

What if the flexible sigmoidoscopy finds something abnormal?

If your doctor sees an area that needs further evaluation, a biopsy (sample of the colon lining) will be taken for analysis. Biopsies are used to identify many conditions, and it does not mean that you have cancer for certain. If polyps (growths from the lining of the colon) are found, the doctor may snare them completely or just take a biopsy of them. Polyps can vary in size and type. Certain “hyperplastic” polyps might not require removal, however; other benign polyps such as “adenomas” are potentially precancerous and should be removed. Your doctor might ask you to have a colonoscopy (a complete examination of the colon) to remove any large polyps or any small adenomas.

What happens after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Your doctor will explain the results to you when the procedure is done. You might feel bloated or have some mild cramp, because of the air that was passed into the colon during the examination. This will disappear quickly when you pass wind. You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving your doctor’s office or the hospital, assuming you did not receive any sedative medication, other wise you should follow the instructions given by the medical team regarding sedation.

What are possible complications of flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are safe when performed by doctors who are specially trained and experienced in these endoscopic procedures. Complications are rare, but it’s important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications.
Bleeding can occur at a biopsy site or where a polyp was removed, but it’s usually minimal and rarely requires follow-up. Other potential risks include a reaction to the sedation if used, complications from heart or lung diseases, and perforation of the colon which is rare. It’s important to recognise early signs of possible complications.
Contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fevers and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Note that rectal bleeding can occur several days after the biopsy.

When do I know the result?

In many cases the doctor will be able to tell you the results straight after the test, or if you have been sedated, as soon as you are awake. However, if a sample (biopsy) has been taken for examination, the results may take several days. It is a good idea to have someone with you when you speak to the doctor after the test since if sedation has been used, people are often find they forget everything that has been said to them, and many do not recollect having the test at all. Details of the results and any necessary treatment should be discussed with your general practitioner or hospital specialist.

Follow-Up Visit

Your doctor may schedule a follow-up visit within a week or two to check the progress of your healing. More follow-up visits may be scheduled as needed.

When to call the doctor?

If you experience any of the following problems

  • fainting and collapses
  • Bleeding
  • increasing abdominal pain
  • Click here for Understanding Colonoscopy