Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A Brief but Important Procedure at Advanced Gastro Center

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an important procedure used to screen for lower gastrointestinal (GI) problems as well as colon cancer. It is very similar to a colonoscopy but differs in that a sigmoidoscopy only looks at the sigmoid colon, the bottom third of the colon, while a colonoscopy examines the entire colon. Therefore, a sigmoidoscopy typically takes less time than a colonoscopy.

Sigmoidoscopy Procedure

The vast majority of sigmoidoscopies are carried out on an outpatient basis. It is almost always the same day procedure, meaning you won’t need to stay overnight in the clinic or hospital.

Preparation: If your gastroenterologist orders a sigmoidoscopy, you’ll receive detailed instructions regarding preparation. These instructions may vary and you should follow them closely, but typically you’ll be directed to perform bowel preparation and avoid eating or drinking for 12-16 hours prior to your procedure. These days, bowel preparation consists of taking laxatives, although an enema may also be ordered in some cases. Good bowel preparation is essential for a sigmoidoscopy, as your gastroenterologist will not be able to see clearly if the colon is filled with stool.

You may also be instructed to stop certain medications, such as blood thinners, prior to your sigmoidoscopy. This is done to prevent bleeding during the procedure. Your gastroenterologist will be able to give you more specific information, but you should always be sure that all of your medical providers have an up to date list of all your medications.

Anesthesia: You’ll receive intravenous sedation completed by trained professionals at New Jersey Advanced Gastro Center before your sigmoidoscopy. This will allow you to relax and sleep during the procedure without being completely “under.” You will be monitored by an anesthesiologist and/or nurse anesthetist the entire time you’re under anesthesia.

Sigmoidoscopy: The actual procedure begins with your gastroenterologist visually inspecting the anal area. A digital rectal examination may also be conducted. Next, your gastroenterologist will use a lubricated flexible sigmoidoscope to examine the entirety of your colon. Modern sigmoidoscopes are equipped with video cameras and sometimes other instruments like cautery and biopsy tools.

This visual inspection of your colon usually takes less than 45 minutes. During this time your gastroenterologist will be checking for suspicious polyps, inflammation, and bleeding. Polyps will be removed for inspection by a pathologist and any sources of bleeding controlled. Once your rectum and sigmoid colon have been inspected, the scope is slowly withdrawn.

Recovery from Sigmoidoscopy

You’ll be moved to a recovery area after your sigmoidoscopy to awaken from anesthesia. Nursing personnel will monitor you for a few hours to make sure you’re doing well. During this time, you may experience gas and abdominal bloating. You’ll then typically be allowed to return home, although you won’t be able to drive yourself. You may notice some rectal soreness for a day or so after your sigmoidoscopy.

Your Advanced Gastro Center gastroenterologist will provide you with complete post procedure instructions. These will include signs to watch for and when to call your gastroenterologist. Your gastroenterologist will likely have your colonoscopy results in a few days, although any pathology reports may take a week or more to be available. It’s important to keep any follow-up appointments you have scheduled.


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