What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to examine the lining of the colon (large bowel) using a flexible instrument, the sigmoidoscope. Its use may be employed in the screening for polyps which may lead to colon cancer.
Most adults should have Flexible Sigmoidoscopy at age 50 and at least every 5 years (e.g. age 55, 60, 65, 70 etc.) in order to detect colon cancer at an early, curable stage.
The exciting news is that beginning in 1998, Medicare pays for this life-saving procedure.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy usually is performed as an outpatient in your primary care physician’s or Borland-Groover Clinic physician’s office. It takes just five to ten minutes, causes only minimal discomfort, and does not require sedatives or pain medicines.
What preparation is required before a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
The colon should be empty of waste material for the procedure to be accurate. Your physician will give you instructions regarding the cleansing routine to be used. Preparation will consist of one or two enemas just prior to the procedure or laxatives to take at home the night before. In some circumstances, no preparation is advised.
Your Borland-Groover Clinic physician will need to know of any medications, major illnesses or allergies so that you can be given instructions about these prior to Flexible Sigmoidoscopy.
Drugs such as aspirin or anticoagulants (blood thinners) are examples of medications which may need to be stopped prior to Flexible Sigmoidoscopy.
What will occur during a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
With the person lying on the side, the doctor performs a gentle finger examination of the rectum. The flexible instrument is then placed into the rectum and advanced to carefully see the lining of the colon. Air, and sometimes water, is entered into the bowel to allow the doctor to see well. The patient often feels fullness or bloating due to this.
If an abnormal area is seen, biopsies may be obtained through the instrument, usually with no discomfort and very low risk of bleeding.
The goal of the procedure is to see up to 65 centimeters, though in about half of examinations, the doctor will stop before this point if the patient reports feeling pain.
What happens after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
After sigmoidoscopy, your Borland-Groover Clinic physician will speak to you and our nurse will give you written instructions and results of the procedure.
A report will be sent to your primary physician in a few days.
You may have a mild cramping or bloating sensation for a few hours because of the air that has been passed into the colon.
You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities immediately after leaving your doctor’s office.
What are the possible complications of a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are generally safe when performed by physicians who have been specialty trained and are experienced in endoscopic procedures.
Rare complications (occurring in fewer than 1 in 1000 cases) include bleeding or perforation of the bowel. Contact your physician if you notice any problems after the procedure.