What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy?

The medical definition of flexible sigmoidoscopy or sigmoidoscopy is the visual exam of the inside of the rectum and sigmoid colon. It’s important to distinguish the difference between a sigmoidoscopy vs. colonoscopy.  During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, only the end of the colon, usually the last one or two feet, is examined.

The procedure utilizes an endoscope. This thin, flexible tube fitted with a tiny camera allows the doctor to view and make a much more precise diagnosis of any potentially diseased regions of your gastrointestinal tract. 

Benefits & Risks

For the diagnosis of the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal pain, or irregular X-ray results, flexible sigmoidoscopy can be performed. This procedure can be just as effective as a full colonoscopy for patients without any symptoms to screen for colon cancer and polyps beginning at age 50. 

Severe sigmoidoscopy side effects are rare but can involve tears in the colon wall, which may require corrective surgery, or bleeding resulting from the removal of a large polyp. Before the operation, your physician will answer any questions you might have.

What to Expect

Clear instructions are given to you to prepare for your flexible sigmoidoscopy. The day before the procedure, you must follow specific guidelines about diet and medication. Before a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a clear liquid diet is typically the designated diet. Cleansing the intestine may involve laxatives or an enema before the procedure.

Flexible sigmoidoscopies are well tolerated and rarely cause pain. Usually, the procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes. You will lay on your left side while your doctor moves an endoscope slowly through the colon's lower section. Similar to bloating or getting gas, you may experience mild discomfort, but this will subside quickly. After inspecting the lining of the intestine, the scope is then slowly removed. The physician can take a biopsy if the endoscope picks up on something irregular. The biopsy will then go to the lab for analysis. Note that biopsies are taken for many reasons and do not necessarily indicate that cancer or disease is present.

​Forms & Preparation

​To access copies of all the documents you may need for your sigmoidoscopy prep, please click below.

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