What is a Sigmoidoscopy?

A sigmoidoscopy is a minimally invasive test that examines the lower part of the colon, or sigmoid colon. It is conducted by placing a long, thin tube with a light and camera attached to it into the anus. This device is called a sigmoidoscope and it can both capture images and remove samples of tissue from the lower colon for examination.

A sigmoidoscopy procedure – or flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure – may be ordered if a patient is experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits or persistent diarrhea. It can help diagnose polyps or colon cancer. While a patient may experience some discomfort during the exam, it is a virtually pain-free experience with no recovery time.

How do I prepare for a sigmoidoscopy?

Here are the most common recommendation for sigmoidoscopy prep:

  • Adjust medications according to the doctor’s direction: At least a week before the exam, discuss medications with the attending physician. Patients with diabetes, taking aspirin or other blood thinners or those taking supplements with iron may have to adjust dosages or temporarily stop taking these pills.
  • Follow a low-residue/low-fiber diet for three days before the exam: This will produce smaller bowel movements to help prep the colon for the test.
  • Take a strong laxative the day before the exam: This will clear the colon of any remaining residue that may interfere with the images the sigmoidoscope captures.
  • Abstain from eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before the exam: Food and liquids and certain dyes in them can interfere with the view of the sigmoidoscope, and should be avoided.
  • Use an enema kit the morning of the exam: In some cases, this may be needed to empty the colon if the laxative was not sufficient.

How long does a sigmoidoscopy take?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure takes about 10-20 minutes. Patients will lie on their left side, knees drawn up, as the sigmoidoscope is inserted into the anus and a small amount of air is pushed through to inflate the colon. In some cases, the doctor may ask the patient to adjust position during the exam to help position the sigmoidoscope inside the colon to capture different images.

What should I expect after a sigmoidoscopy procedure?

Here’s what to expect after a sigmoidoscopy procedure at Baptist Health:

  • Patients will need no recovery time and can resume their regular diet and activities.
  • There may be a little discomfort from the air the sigmoidoscope pushes into the colon during the exam. This discomfort could include bloating or gas, and walking may help relieve it.
  • Results are usually available a few days after the procedure. The doctor will discuss results with the patient and plan what next steps, if any, are necessary.
  • From the results, the doctor may recommend a biopsy of any polyps that were found, or a colonoscopy to examine the entire colon.

Sigmoidoscopy Procedures at Baptist Health

Patients experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits or persistent diarrhea may need to talk with their doctor about a sigmoidoscopy procedure, which can be conducted by the medical experts at Baptist Health. Those who have a family history of colon cancer should also speak with their doctor about having this exam performed.