Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

You may be visiting the Digestive Diseases Treatment Centers in Brooklyn or Manhattan because your doctor has ordered a sigmoidoscopy. Find out more about this diagnostic test, including how you should prepare for the procedure to ensure more accurate results.

What is a Sigmoidoscopy?

A sigmoidoscopy is used to examine the rectum and the sigmoid colon, the last one-third of the colon. This test may be recommended if you have experienced unexplained changes in your bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or sudden or unexplained weight loss. While a sigmoidoscopy can also be used to screen for certain types of cancer, a colonoscopy that allows your physician to see the entire colon is generally preferred for cancer screening.

How is a Sigmoidoscopy Performed?

A long, flexible tube about as thick as a finger and known as a sigmoidoscope, is used to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon. A light and camera, which transmits an image onto a video screen in the exam room, are mounted on the tip of the sigmoidoscope. While you lay on an exam table on your left side, the sigmoidoscope is inserted into your anus and carefully guided through the rectum into the sigmoid colon. The colon is then inflated with air to allow the camera to capture a better view. After reaching the transverse colon, the scope is slowly removed, allowing the doctor to further examine the inside of the colon and rectum. The camera will make a recording of this examination so that it can be thoroughly reviewed after the procedure has been completed.

A sigmoidoscopy usually takes about 20 minutes. It may take longer if a biopsy, which involves removing tissue samples for further testing, or polyp removal is done. A biopsy may be done for many reasons and does not necessarily mean that cancer is suspected.

You may experience cramping or bloating during the first hour after your sigmoidoscopy, but this is can be easily resolved in most cases by passing gas. Alert your doctor immediately if you notice more severe side effects, including severe abdominal pain, fever, bloody bowel movements, dizziness, or weakness.

Your gastroenterologist may discuss the preliminary results of your sigmoidoscopy before you are released. However, it will take a few days to get the results of further tissue testing.

How do You Prepare for a Sigmoidoscopy?

If you’re scheduled to have a sigmoidoscopy at the Digestive Diseases Treatment Centers in Brooklyn or Manhattan, it’s important that you follow the preparation instructions that are given to you by your doctor. This may include flushing your colon with an enema 2 hours before your procedure as well as the night before, and following a clear liquid diet for up to 3 days before a sigmoidoscopy. It is usually recommended that you avoid foods that contain red or purple dye beforehand. Failing to follow these instructions may result in inaccurate test results and the need for another sigmoidoscopy or additional testing.

Contact the Digestive Diseases Treatment Center in Brooklyn or Manhattan if you have further questions about an upcoming sigmoidoscopy.