Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic procedure used to look inside the colon that is typically performed to investigate negative GI symptoms.

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure where a long, thin, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and moved through the lower part of the colon. It allows the doctor to examine the lining of the colon using a light and camera on the tube. This procedure is useful for diagnosing the cause of symptoms like diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal pain, and abnormal x-ray results. It can also be used as a screening tool for colon cancer and polyps. If you’re experiencing any concerning symptoms related to your digestive system, you can reach out to The Gut Clinic UK to see if a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a suitable option for you.

What should I expect the day before my flexible sigmoidoscopy?

You will receive instructions from your doctor on how to prepare your bowel for the exam. This usually involves following a clear liquid diet on the day before the exam. Your doctor will provide you with different options for laxatives to help clean out your colon. It’s important to carefully follow the instructions given to you by your doctor, including any specific instructions about your medications. In most cases, you will continue taking your medications as usual, but there may be special instructions for patients taking blood thinners or for diabetics. You should also avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight, except for any medications that have been specifically instructed by your doctor.

What happens on the day of my flexible sigmoidoscopy?

On the day of your flexible sigmoidoscopy, you will need to arrive at the endoscopy center about 1 to 1.5 hours before your exam. This will give you enough time to complete any necessary paperwork and get ready for the procedure. You will be asked to change into a medical gown.

In most cases, sedation is not given for this exam. Instead, you may have the option to use gas and air (ENTONOX) for pain relief. However, you can discuss the possibility of having sedation with your specialist. The medical staff will connect you to monitoring equipment to keep an eye on your vital signs, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, throughout the procedure.

Once you’re in the exam room, you will be asked to lie on your left side on a stretcher. The specialist will perform a rectal exam, and then a thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope will be gently inserted into your rectum. The scope will be carefully advanced through your sigmoid colon, which is part of your lower intestine. To help the doctor see better, a small amount of air will be pumped into your colon through the scope. Any fluid remaining in your colon from the preparation before the exam can be washed out and suctioned out through the scope.

During the procedure, the doctor may perform biopsies, remove polyps if they’re found, or control any bleeding if necessary. At the end of the exam, as much air and remaining fluid as possible will be suctioned out of your colon through the scope. The entire procedure usually takes about 5 to 15 minutes, depending on what the doctor finds and needs to do.

Since sedation is typically not used, after the exam is complete, you can change back into your clothes and leave the endoscopy unit. If you didn’t receive sedation, you will be able to drive and resume your usual activities. Most patients can eat and drink normally after leaving the endoscopy unit, but your doctor will give you specific instructions about activity, eating, and medications before you leave. The doctor or nurse will also discuss the findings of the procedure with you, and you will receive a typed report to take home.

What are the risks of a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

In general, a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a very safe procedure. Complications are rare, occurring in less than 1% of patients. Most complications are not life-threatening, but if a complication does occur, it may require hospitalisation and surgery. Before the exam, the nursing staff will go over a consent form with you, and you can discuss any questions or concerns with your physician before the procedure begins.

Bleeding can happen if biopsies are taken or polyps are removed during the sigmoidoscopy. However, significant bleeding that requires a blood transfusion or hospitalization is very uncommon. If bleeding does occur, it can happen at the time of the exam or up to 2 weeks after if a polyp was removed.

There is a small risk of the colon being perforated or punctured during the procedure. This may be noticed right away or it may become apparent later in the day. If a perforation occurs, it will usually require surgery and hospitalization. However, this is a rare complication, even when polyps are removed. It’s important to contact your doctor’s office immediately if you experience worsening abdominal pain, bleeding, or fever after the procedure.

Like any test, a sigmoidoscopy is not perfect and there is a small chance that abnormalities, including polyps and cancers, may be missed during the exam. It’s important to continue following up with your doctors as instructed and inform them of any new or persistent symptoms. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your specialist.

What are the alternatives to a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

The alternatives to a sigmoidoscopy depend on why you need the procedure. In some cases, different types of x-rays can be used to evaluate the colon, such as a barium enema or virtual CT scan. However, these x-rays are only for diagnosing and may not be able to treat any problems found. If abnormalities are detected, you may need a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or surgery for treatment. To get more information about your treatment options and to diagnose your condition, please reach out to The Gut Clinic UK.

Advanced diagnostic testing

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that can help doctors figure out why you’re having gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like diarrhea, bleeding, or abdominal pain. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact a specialist who can help. You can find a local GI specialist through The Gut Clinic UK, which is known for its high-quality care and patient-focused approach. To schedule your flexible sigmoidoscopy or any other procedure, reach out to The Gut Clinic UK today.


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