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What Is a Sigmoidoscopy?

Sigmoidoscopy, also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy, is a diagnostic procedure that helps doctors to examine the rectum and the lower part of the colon (sigmoid colon). This exam allows the doctor to assess a wide range of conditions affecting this area and can be used to take biopsies as well. The procedure is done by using a sigmoidoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and light at the tip.

Why Would You Need A Sigmoidoscopy?

This technique is mostly used to make a diagnosis of the possible diseases affecting the rectum and the sigmoid colon, including:

  • Colon cancer
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Sigmoid polyps
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Causes of constipation or diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids

What Does a Sigmoidoscopy Involves?

Before the Sigmoidoscopy

After the doctor explains the reasons and the steps of your procedure, you will be asked to take a cleansing bowel formula (a laxative) at home the day before your procedure.

During the Procedure

Depending on your condition, you might or may not require or sedative. The doctor will ask you to lay on your side, with your knees drawn toward your chest in the bed. The sigmoidoscope is now gently inserted in the rectum using some lubricant. Because air is introduced into your bowel to help your doctor having a better view of your colon, you may feel some cramping or fullness during the procedure. The entire procedure usually takes around 15-20 minutes.

After the Procedure

Usually, the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and you can go home the same day the procedure is done. You might feel some abdominal discomfort and notice a small amount of blood within your bowel moments after the procedure but this is considered as normal.


Possible Risks and Complications

Sigmoidoscopy is a safe procedure with minimal risks associated. However some rare risks includ:

  • Continuous bleeding or blood clot formation
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Rectal infection

Also, since sigmoidoscopy doesn’t allow to see the entire colon, the doctor can’t detect any other conditions like polyps or cancer- beyond the sigmoid colon. For a more thorough examination, a colonoscopy is required.