GI Procedures FAQs

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy


What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the sigmoid colon and rectum. It is used to look for cancer, changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain or bleeding, inflamed tissue, abnormal growths and ulcers.

What is the sigmoid colon?
The sigmoid colon is the last one-third of the colon. The colon absorbs nutrients and water and forms solid stool.

What is the rectum?
The rectum is about 6 inches long and connects the sigmoid colon to the anus. Stool leaves the body through the anus. Muscles and nerves in the rectum and anus help control bowel movements.

How is flexible sigmoidoscopy different from colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy shows the entire colon where the flexible sigmoidoscopy only shows the last third of the colon at best.

How do you prepare for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Before the test a clear liquid diet 1 to 3 days before the procedure must be followed so that the entire gastrointestinal tract is emptied.  A laxative or an enema may also be required the night before a flexible sigmoidoscopy to ensure all solids are removed.

How is a flexible sigmoidoscopy performed?
During the examination you will lie on your left side while a long, flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted into the anus.  The procedure normally takes about 20 minutes.  Cramping and bloating are normal and may occur during the first hour after the procedure.

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