A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that lets your doctor examine your lower colon and rectum using a tool called a sigmoidoscope. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, light tube that a doctor uses to visualize the area they are examining. This procedure takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Why Would I Need a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy. The significant difference between the two is that a flexible sigmoidoscopy only looks at half the colon. It's a procedure that causes minimal discomfort and may be recommended by your doctor to evaluate one of the following issues:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Change in your bowel habits
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Intestinal problems

A flexible sigmoidoscopy can also be used to screen for colon cancer.

Why Would I Need a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

How do I Prepare for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

You will have to empty your colon before a flexible sigmoidoscopy, as any residue in your colon could obscure the view of both it and your rectum during the exam. Your doctor might ask you to do some or all of the following:

  • Your doctor may put you on a special diet before the exam, instructing you not to eat anything the day before. Your beverage choices may also be limited to plain water, broth, carbonated beverages, and tea and coffee without any milk or creamer. Your doctor might also instruct you to avoid consuming anything after midnight on the night before the exam.
  • Your doctor might ask you to adjust your medications or stop taking them temporarily to avoid complications with flexible sigmoidoscopy. This is very likely if you take medicines for diabetes.
  • Your doctor might instruct you to take a laxative the night before the exam.
  • You will have to use an over-the-counter enema kit a few hours before the exam to clean out your colon. In some cases, you may have to use two enemas.

What Happens During a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, you will remain awake and lie down on your left side on the exam table. Usually, no sedation or pain medicine is necessary during the exam. Your doctor will insert a sigmoidoscope through your rectum, into your anus, and your large intestine. The doctor will then place air into your colon, which may cause some cramping, but will improve visibility for the small camera at the tip of the sigmoidoscope so that they can examine the inside of your colon. Instruments can also be inserted through the scope to take tissue samples. The entire process takes about 10-20 minutes. Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy if a polyp is found during the exam.

What Should You Expect for Recovery After Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Recovery from a flexible sigmoidoscopy is quite simple, as you can return to most of your regular diet and activities right after the exam is finished. You may feel bloated or have some mild discomfort for a few hours after the exam, though walking can help relieve some of that discomfort. You might see some blood during your first bowel movement after the exam, but this is normal and nothing to be concerned about. You should contact your doctor if you continue to pass blood, have persistent abdominal pain, or have a fever of 100 or higher well after the exam.

What Should You Expect for Recovery After Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Schedule Your Initial Consultation Today with Idaho Digestive Health Institute

Dr. Woolf of Idaho Digestive Health is an experienced Gastroenterologist who is well-versed in procedures such as flexible sigmoidoscopy and other endoscopic procedures. Reach out to to us for more information on this procedure or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Woolf.