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Identifying Lower GI Problems with Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits can all result from a spectrum of disorders of the rectum and sigmoid colon, the lowest portion of the large intestine, ranging from hemorrhoids to colorectal cancer. Flexible sigmoidoscopy, a procedure our board certified physicians use to examine the lining of the lower colon, can evaluate the cause of such symptoms.

Understanding the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Procedure

Flexible sigmoidoscopy lets us examine the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine) by inserting a flexible tube about the width of your finger into the rectum and slowly advancing it into the lower part of the colon. Anesthesia is usually not given during a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

What Preparation is Required?

We will tell you what cleansing routine to use. In general, preparation consists of one or two enemas prior to the procedure but could include laxatives or dietary modifications as well. Because the rectum and lower colon must be completely empty for the procedure to be accurate, it’s important to follow our instructions carefully.

Should I Continue My Current Medications?

Most medications can be continued as usual. Inform us about medications that you’re taking – particularly anticoagulants (blood thinners) – as well as any allergies you have to medications. Also, tell us if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, because you might need antibiotics prior to sigmoidoscopy as well.

What Can I Expect During Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well-tolerated. You might experience a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure. You will lie on your side while we advance the sigmoidoscope through the rectum and colon. As we withdraw the instrument, we will carefully examine the lining of the intestine.

What If the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Finds Something Abnormal?

If we see an area that needs further evaluation, we might take a biopsy (sample of the colon lining) to be analyzed. Biopsies are used to identify many conditions, and we might order one even if we do not suspect cancer.

If we find polyps, we might take a biopsy of them as well. Polyps, which are growths from the lining of the colon, vary in size and types. If we find polyps, we will likely ask you to have a colonoscopy (a complete examination of the colon) to evaluate for polyps in the rest of the large intestine.

What Happens After a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

We will explain the results to you when the procedure is done. You might feel bloated or some mild cramping because of the air that was passed into the colon during the examination. This will disappear quickly when you pass gas. You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving our office.

What Are Possible Complications of Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Complications are rare, but it’s important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact our office if you notice severe abdominal pain, fevers and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Note that rectal bleeding can occur several days after a biopsy.

For more information about flexible sigmoidoscopy, visit Long Island Digestive Disease Consultants.