What Is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy And Why Is It Necessary?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the rectum and lower bowel. During the test, your physician will inspect the lining of the bowel to look for growths and other abnormalities.
The test is performed with a slim, flexible fiber optic instrument that is inserted along the curves of the rectum and colon. The fiberoptics create the instrument flexibility while allowing excellent visualization.
The test is important for people who have or do not have symptoms such as bleeding or irregular bowel habits. WHY – because many cancers and diseases of the colon can be detected with this test. And, the earlier the detection the better the chance for a permanent cure.
How Is It Done?
Because a clean, empty colon is essential for a successful examination, you will be given two small enemas to clean out the lower bowel.
You will be taken to the procedure room, asked to remove your clothing from the waist down and positioned on the exam table on your left side with your knees flexed.
The examination is done on your left side because this allows for easier insertion of the instrument and causes less discomfort to you. The usual length of time for the examination is from five to ten minutes. Most patients feel some discomfort in the form of abdominal cramping. This is usually due to the insertion of air to expand the colon for better visualization.
You may feel nervous and apprehensive about the test. This is normal. Our staff realizes this and will do everything possible to help you. It is not the most “pleasant” test you may have had, but certainly not the worst.
You may feel the urge to move your bowels. This is normal, but you will not have a bowel movement and should not try to “hold back”.
What Happens After The Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
After you are dressed, you may go to the restroom, if necessary. Once you expel the air that was inserted, you should not feel any after effects of the procedure.
You will be taken to one of the examination rooms, and the physician will discuss the findings with you and discuss any further steps that need to be taken.
Alternatives To Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
The old method, rigid sigmoidoscopy, is a possible alternative, although it is not nearly as effective a test.
Things To Remember
During the examination, you will hear many different noises. These noises are caused by the machines that provide the instrument light and by the suction machines.
The more relaxed you are, the easier the examination will be. It is important that you breathe regularly. Try to relax your muscles. Slow, deep breaths assist in relaxation.
Are There Any Complications?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is safe and is associated with very low risk when performed by physicians who have been specially trained and are experienced in this procedure. Complications can occur, but are rare.
One possible complication is perforation, in which a tear through the wall of the bowel may allow leakage of intestinal fluids. It may be managed with antibiotics and intravenous fluids, although surgery is usually required.
Bleeding may occur from the site of biopsy. It is usually minor and stops on its own or can be controlled by cauterization (application of electric current) through the sigmoidoscope.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an extremely worthwhile and safe procedure which is very well tolerated and is invaluable in the diagnosis of disorders of the lower colon. The decision to perform this procedure was based upon assessment of your particular problem. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to speak to the doctor performing the procedure. Both of you share a common goal – your good health – and it can only be achieved through mutual trust, respect and understanding.