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What is a Sigmoidoscopy and What Purpose Does It Serve?

A sigmoidoscopy (sig-moi-DOS-kuh-pee) is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the rectum and lower part of the large intestine (the sigmoid colon). The doctor uses a sigmoidoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera. He or she inserts the tube into the rectum and the end of the large intestine to look for abnormal tissue. This could be a possible cause of pelvic pain, rectal bleeding, bowel changes, and chronic diarrhea, among other intestinal issues. Your doctor may also recommend a sigmoidoscopy to screen for colon cancer instead of a colonoscopy.

How Should I Prepare for the Procedure and What Can I Expect?

Before a sigmoidoscopy exam, we’ll ask you to cleanse your colon to ensure we have a clear, unobscured view of your colon and rectum during the procedure. We will provide you with specific dietary instructions, laxatives, and/or an enema kit, and we may ask you to make temporary adjustments to your medication.

When you arrive for your exam, we’ll have you change into a gown. Then you will lie on your side and your doctor will guide the sigmoidoscope into your rectum. Air will inflate the colon to provide the best view of the inner lining. This may cause you to experience abdominal cramping or the need to have a bowel movement. The sigmoidoscope will capture images of your intestine and colon lining and display them on a monitor for your doctor to review and analyze. If your doctor sees an area that he or she would like to examine more closely, the sigmoidoscope can be used to guide the tools needed to take a biopsy (small tissue sample).

A sigmoidoscopy procedure generally takes 15 minutes and does not require sedation or pain medications. After the exam you may experience mild pelvic discomfort, feel bloated, have the urge to pass gas, or notice blood in your stool. Most patients can resume normal activities and diet immediately after the procedure.

Your doctor will follow up with you to talk about your exam results and let you know if you need any additional exams or procedures.

Learn More: Sigmoidoscopy

Cleveland Clinic

Mayo Clinic

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

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