What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that allows a physician to examine the rectum and lower colon using a specialized endoscope inserted into the anus and advanced slowly through the rectum and lower colon.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but it only examines the lower part of the colon, whereas a colonoscopy examines the entire large intestine.

Why is a flexible sigmoidoscopy performed?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed for patients experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, chronic diarrhea, unexpected weight loss, or other intestinal problems.

Flexible sigmoidoscopies are used to diagnose:

  • Colon cancer
  • Colon polyps – groups of cells in the colon that can become cancerous
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), known as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Rectal ulcers
    • Hemorrhoids

What is the difference between a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are both endoscopic procedures using a small, thin, flexible tube to examine parts of the large intestine. Both require preparation work prior to the procedure to clean out the colon. The difference between a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy is that a flexible sigmoidoscopy requires less prep work and only examines the lower part of the large intestine (colon). In contrast, a colonoscopy requires more extensive prep work and examines the entire large intestine.

How long does it take for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

You will be asked to arrive at the Endoscopy of Plano center at least one hour prior to your scheduled exam time. This will allow our nurses and anesthesia providers to go over everything with you in detail and go through your health and medical history so that we can keep you as safe as possible. Also, they will place an IV in a vein in your arm so that you can be given fluids and medications during the exam.

You will speak with Dr. Cooley prior to the flexible sigmoidoscopy, and he will answer any questions you have prior to the exam. You will then be given medications through the IV so that you will be comfortable and sleep during the exam. During the exam, you will be awake enough that you will be breathing on your own but sleepy enough that you are comfortable. Once you drift off to sleep, we will pass the scope into the lower part of the large intestine. We will carefully inspect the sigmoid colon and rectum for abnormalities, and if needed, a biopsy will be performed. Polyps may also be removed. This takes approximately 20 minutes.

You will then be taken to the recovery room where a nurse will monitor you closely until you are fully awake. Dr. Cooley will go over the results of your exam with you before you leave the endoscopy center. Although you will be awake before you leave, it is essential that you bring a friend or relative with you that can safely drive you home.

What do you have to do to prepare for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Laxatives are usually required the night before the procedure, and on the day of the procedure, a Fleet’s enema is given.

What are the complications of a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Complications are rare. Bleeding can occur after a biopsy or polypectomy, but this usually stops on its own. Some patients do require endoscopic treatment of the bleeding and transfusion. Perforations (tears in the colon) can occur and may require surgical intervention. Cautery burns of the colon during polyp removal sometimes cause problems. Post procedure infections are very rare. In general, the procedure is safe and effective.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical condition.

This website is owned and managed by Brian Cooley, MD. Any information, offers, or instruction as written, inferred, or implied is the sole responsibility of Brian Cooley, MD, and does not warrant claim or representation, inherent, or implied of DHAT, its subsidiaries, or employees.