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Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What Is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure performed by a Gastroenterologist to examine the rectum or lower portion of your gastrointestinal tract, and a portion of the colon or large intestine called the sigmoid colon. The colon is approximately 4-5 feet in length. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope is used to transmit high quality images of the inside lining of your gastrointestinal tract to a video monitor.  

When Would I Need a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Your physician may recommend a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy to evaluate certain lower gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or rectal bleeding. Your doctor might use a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy to obtain a tissue sample or biopsy. Biopsies are taken for many reasons, including distinguishing between benign and malignant (cancerous) conditions. A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is also used to treat many conditions of the lower gastrointestinal tract. Your physician can pass instruments through the sigmoidoscope to directly treat many abnormalities. Examples include the removal of polyps or growths and the treatment of bleeding. 

How Do I Prepare for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Our staff at bhg will give you detailed instructions in advance. Preparation for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy includes taking enemas prior to your procedure that will clean out the lower portion of your colon and rectum. You may be asked to fast the night before your procedure if you will be receiving sedation. Tell your doctor about any medical problems that you have, and bring a complete list of your allergies and medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. Alert your doctor if you require antibiotics prior to dental or surgical procedures.  

What Can I Expect During a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Patients are sometimes sedated for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. However, because the procedure generally takes only a few minutes, most patients remain awake. If anesthesia is used, our doctors at bhg may use an anesthesiologist to administer your sedation and monitor you. This is the safest way of having a procedure performed. Using an anesthesiologist allows your physician to concentrate his or her efforts on performing your procedure while your anesthesiologist monitors your vital signs and makes sure you remain comfortable. During the procedure, you will be lying on your left side. Prior to the procedure, your Gastroenterologist will perform a rectal examination using his or her finger. Your doctor will then pass the sigmoidoscope into your rectum and through the lower portion of your colon. While the sigmoidoscope is being passed, air may be introduced to help your Gastroenterologist see better. The sigmoidoscope is then withdrawn slowly and the inner lining of the colon and rectum is carefully inspected. If you are awake for the procedure, you may experience a feeling of pressure, bloating, or cramping during the procedure. The procedure usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes to perform. 

What Happens After a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

If you were given sedation for your procedure, you will be monitored for a short period of time until most of the effects of your sedation have worn off. You will be able to eat unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Our staff will give you detailed instructions. You may have some mild abdominal pain, gas, or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during the examination. This should disappear after you pass gas. If you are given sedation, you will not be allowed to drive after your examination as the sedation used during the procedure can affect your reflexes and judgment. You should arrange for someone to drive you home. Your physician will be able to tell you your tests results once you are awake. However, the results of any biopsies can take a few days (and sometimes up to a week) to get back.  

What Are the Risks of Having a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Complications may occur, but they are rare when a Board Certified Gastroenterologist who is specially trained and experienced performs the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. Potential risks include: having a reaction to the sedation that may be used, bleeding (usually self-limited), having complications from heart or lung disease, and perforation (a tear in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract).

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