Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Procedure Questions

What is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

It’s an examination of the lining in the rectum and the lower colon using a small, finger-sized tube called a sigmoidoscope. Your colon is approximately 5-6 feet in length, and the sigmoidoscopy allows your doctor to visualize the lower 1-2 feet of that.

Procedure Bullet Points

The Flexible Sigmoidoscopy:

  • Is low-risk
  • Usually is performed in office
  • Takes 10-15 minutes
  • Usually does not require sedation

The sigmoidoscope is inserted into the anus, then eased it into the rectum and lower colon while you rest on your side. As the sigmoidoscope is pulled back your doctor will carefully examine the lining of the intestine.

You should look into a Sigmoidoscopy if you experience:

  • rectal bleeding
  • persistent diarrhea
  • rectal pain
  • or as a follow up from a previous examination or x-ray

Your doctor may or may not advise you to undergo special preparation. If so, they will guide you through a cleansing routine. Your cleansing routine may consist of:

  • 1-2 enema
  • a modified diet
  • or laxatives

It’s important to follow your cleansing routine carefully, as any material remaining in the colon or rectum can affect the accuracy of the procedure.


It’s important to inform your doctor of:

  • Any medication that you take regularly, especially;
    • aspirin products
    • Clopidogrel
    • blood thinners, such as Warfarin or Herparin
  • Any known allergies to medication
  • Any medical conditions that will require special attention, such as;
    • diabetes
    • heart conditions
    • lung conditions
    • any other major conditions


It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

It’s normal to feel some pressure, bloating, or cramping as you lay on your side, but, aside from that small discomfort, the procedure is well-tolerated. Your doctor may take a biopsy if they find an area that needs further analysis.

Your doctor will walk you through the results. If any large polyps are found, your doctor will likely ask you to participate in a colonoscopy. You may experience bloating or discomfort due to excess air in your colon—this will resolve itself if you gas. If your doctor obtained a biopsy, you may notice some spotting. You should be able to eat and resume your daily activities once you leave your doctor’s office or hospital.

While the procedure is low-risk, you should contact your doctor if you notice any of these early warning signs:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rectal bleeding (which can occur several days after your exam)
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