What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?
This 10 minute procedure allows Dr. Ahmed to examine the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine) by inserting a flexible tube about the thickness of your finger into the anus and slowly advancing it into the rectum and lower part of the colon. Doctors may use flexible sigmoidoscopy, to determine the cause of diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation or look for signs of cancer. With flexible sigmoidoscopy, Dr. Ahmed can see bleeding, inflammation, abnormal growths, and ulcers in the descending colon and rectum. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is not sufficient to detect polyps or cancer in the ascending or transverse colon (two-thirds of the colon).
What preparation is required?
Dr. Ahmed 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. However, in some circumstances Dr. Ahmed might advise you to forgo any special preparation. Because the rectum and lower colon must be completely empty for the procedure to be accurate, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
Should I continue my current medications?
Most medications can be continued as usual. Inform Dr. Ahmed about medications that you’re taking – particularly aspirin products or anticoagulants (blood thinners) — as well as any allergies you have to medications. Also, tell Dr. Ahmed 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 Dr. Ahmed advances the sigmoidoscope through the rectum and colon. As Dr. Ahmed withdraws the instrument, he will carefully examine the lining of the intestine.
What if the flexible sigmoidoscopy finds something abnormal?
If Dr. Ahmed sees an area that needs further evaluation, he might take a biopsy (sample of the colon lining) to be analyzed. Biopsies are used to identify many conditions, and he might order one even if he doesn’t suspect cancer.
If Dr. Ahmed finds polyps, he might take a biopsy of them as well. Polyps, which are growths from the lining of the colon, vary in size and types.
What happens after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Dr. Ahmed will explain the results to you when the procedure is done. You might feel bloating 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 the facility, assuming you did not receive any sedative medication.
What are possible complications of flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy are safe when performed by doctors who are specially trained and experienced in these endoscopic procedures. Complications are rare, but it’s important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact Dr. Ahmed 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 the biopsy.