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  • Understanding Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A Comprehensive Guide to Procedure and Benefits

Imagine a diagnostic procedure that provides valuable insight into your colon health while being less invasive and requiring less preparation than a full colonoscopy. That’s precisely what flexible sigmoidoscopy offers. This examination is a critical tool in detecting and preventing colorectal cancer and other conditions affecting the lower part of the colon. Join us on this informative journey as we delve into the world of flexible sigmoidoscopy, providing a comprehensive guide on the procedure, its benefits, and how to prepare for it.

Key Takeaways

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a diagnostic procedure to examine the lower part of the colon and detect colorectal cancer.

  • A pre-procedure consultation, bowel preparation, and post-procedure care are necessary for successful examination.

  • Healthcare providers can recommend complementary tests or follow up procedures depending on an individual’s risk factors and medical history.

Deciphering the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure being performed

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that examines the lower part of the colon, specifically the sigmoid colon, descending colon, and rectum, using a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera attached to its tip. This examination helps detect colon and rectal cancer, rectal bleeding, and other unexplained symptoms, and plays a pivotal role in colorectal cancer screening. The flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure provides your doctor with important information about your colon health, which could lead to early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer or other conditions affecting the lower colon.

During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor may take tissue samples or remove polyps if any abnormal tissue is observed. The procedure is less invasive than a full colonoscopy, as it only examines the lower part of the colon rather than the entire colon. Proper preparation for the procedure is key to ensure the lower colon is clean and clear for examination.

The Procedure Explained: How a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Works

Removal of polyps during a flexible sigmoidoscopy

During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the patient undergoes the following steps:

  1. The patient lies on their left side on an exam table.

  2. The sigmoidoscope, a thin flexible tube with a small light and camera, is inserted through the anus.

  3. The sigmoidoscope is carefully guided through the rectum and into the sigmoid colon.

  4. To provide a better view of the intestinal lining, air is pumped into the large intestine.

  5. The camera captures a video image and transmits it to a monitor.

  6. The doctor observes the tissues lining the sigmoid colon and rectum.

  7. The procedure typically takes about 20 minutes to complete.

If polyps or abnormal tissue are found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor may recommend a full colonoscopy to evaluate the entire colon, as additional polyps may be present higher up in the colon. In some cases, the doctor may remove polyps or take tissue samples during the procedure for further analysis.

Preparing for Your Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Steps and Dietary Guidelines

Before your flexible sigmoidoscopy, it is crucial to discuss any medical conditions or medications that may affect the examination with your doctor. Proper preparation contributes to a successful procedure, as a clean and clear colon enables a thorough examination of the intestinal lining.

Consultation Before the Procedure

During the pre-procedure consultation, your healthcare provider will:

  • Explain the flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure and ensure you understand it

  • Give you an opportunity to ask any questions or express any concerns you may have

  • Gather relevant medical history information

  • Discuss any necessary preparations for the procedure

Informing your doctor if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications that may potentially affect the flexible sigmoidoscopy is important. This includes disclosing any prior illnesses or surgeries to your healthcare provider, as these may increase the risk of complications during the procedure.

Bowel Preparation: Ensuring Clarity for Examination

For a successful flexible sigmoidoscopy, your bowel needs to be prepared to ensure a clear examination. The bowel preparation process typically involves two enemas to clean out the lower part of the colon. In some cases, you may also need to drink a bowel cleanser, such as Citrate of Magnesia, to induce bowel movements for a clear colon.

Following a clear liquid diet before the procedure can also help ensure that your colon is clean and clear for examination. This diet consists of:

  • Light-colored Jell-O

  • Clear juices

  • Kool-Aid

  • Clear vegetable broth

If you experience any adverse effects from the bowel preparation or changes in your bowel habits, it is advised to contact a healthcare professional.

During the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: What to Expect

Patient positioning during a flexible sigmoidoscopy

As you lie on your left side during the flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor will:

  1. Insert the sigmoidoscope into your rectum and slowly guide it through your rectum and into your sigmoid colon.

  2. Introduce air to expand the colon, allowing for a better view of the colon lining.

  3. Use the sigmoidoscope’s tiny camera to transmit video images to a monitor, enabling the doctor to inspect the interior of your colon and assess any abnormalities.

During the procedure, the doctor may take tissue samples or remove polyps if they find any abnormal growths. The removal of polyps or biopsy of abnormal tissue can help in the early detection and treatment of colorectal conditions. Although you may experience some discomfort, such as a feeling of pressure, during the procedure, it is generally well-tolerated.

Removal of Polyps and Tissue Sampling

If polyps or abnormal tissue are found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy, they may be removed or biopsied for further analysis. A biopsy involves obtaining a tissue sample from any areas that appear abnormal for examination under a microscope. The intent of obtaining tissue samples during a flexible sigmoidoscopy is to assess any anomalous regions and provide the doctor with valuable information for diagnosing and treating colorectal conditions.

If a polyp is detected during the flexible sigmoidoscopy, your doctor may recommend a full colonoscopy to evaluate the entire colon, given that additional polyps may be present higher up in the colon.

Post-Procedure Care and Recovery

Post-procedure care and recovery after a flexible sigmoidoscopy

After the flexible sigmoidoscopy, you may experience mild discomfort, bloating, or gas due to the air introduced into your colon during the procedure. These side effects are generally brief and can be managed by passing gas for a few hours after the procedure.

If you received sedation during the procedure, having a responsible adult accompany you and remain with you for at least 12 hours post-examination is important, especially when changing into your hospital gown.

Resuming Normal Diet and Activities

After the flexible sigmoidoscopy, you can generally resume a normal diet, but should avoid foods that may cause irritation or discomfort, such as spicy foods, greasy foods, and foods high in fiber. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids is also important. Should you have any specific dietary restrictions or concerns, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider.

In terms of physical activities, most individuals can resume their normal activities immediately following the procedure. Walking may be beneficial in relieving any discomfort after a flexible sigmoidoscopy, and pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the back.

Potential Complications and How to Handle Them

Though complications from a flexible sigmoidoscopy are rare, they can include bleeding, infection, and bowel perforation. Bleeding may occur after a biopsy or polyp removal, but it is typically minor and resolves on its own within a few days. If you experience persistent bleeding or blood clots after the procedure, it is advised to consult your doctor.

Infection following a flexible sigmoidoscopy is also a possibility, with symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Tenderness

  • Chills

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

If you develop severe pain or any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment.

Understanding Your Test Results

Test results from a flexible sigmoidoscopy are typically available within two weeks and will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider. The doctor will assess the outcomes and provide them to you, explaining any findings and discussing any necessary follow-up procedures or treatments.

If your doctor is concerned about the quality of the view during the flexible sigmoidoscopy or if polyps or abnormal tissue are found, they may recommend a repeat flexible sigmoidoscopy exam or another screening test, such as a full colonoscopy, to ensure a thorough examination and accurate diagnosis.

When to Choose Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Over Full Colonoscopy

Choosing flexible sigmoidoscopy over full colonoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy may be chosen over a full colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening due to its less invasive nature, reduced preparation, and lower risk of complications. If you are not at heightened risk for colorectal cancer and have health factors that make a colonoscopy more challenging, then a flexible sigmoidoscopy may be the preferred option. It is quicker, safer, less complicated, and cheaper than a colonoscopy, although a colonoscopy allows for examination of the entire large intestine and may be preferred in certain circumstances.

Consulting with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate screening option for you, considering your individual risk factors and medical history, is important. Together, you can make an informed decision about which procedure is best suited to your needs and colorectal health.

Enhancing Detection: Complementary Tests and Follow-Up

Besides a flexible sigmoidoscopy, your doctor may recommend other tests to improve the detection and treatment of colorectal conditions. Complementary tests include:

  • Fecal occult blood tests (FOBT)

  • High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood testing (HSgFOBT)

  • Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT)

  • Multitarget stool DNA testing

  • CT colonography, also known as virtual colonoscopy

CT colonography can also be an effective noninvasive option for screening for colorectal cancer and is a beneficial preoperative examination technique for colon cancer treatment.

Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the most appropriate combination of tests and follow-up procedures based on your individual risk factors and test results. Early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer and other conditions are key for maintaining your overall health and well-being.

Summary

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a valuable diagnostic tool for examining the lower part of the colon and detecting colorectal cancer and other conditions. With its less invasive nature and reduced preparation compared to a full colonoscopy, it is an attractive option for many individuals seeking colorectal cancer screening. However, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate screening option for you, considering your individual risk factors and medical history.

By understanding the flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure, its benefits, and how to prepare for it, you are taking a proactive approach to maintaining your colorectal health. Early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer and other conditions are crucial for preserving your overall health and well-being. Take charge of your health and schedule your flexible sigmoidoscopy today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a short test that focuses on the rectum and sigmoid colon (the lower part of the colon), while a colonoscopy provides a comprehensive evaluation of the entire large intestine, extending to the terminal ileum of the small bowel.

How painful is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is generally not painful, though some may experience gas pain or cramping during the procedure.

What does a flexible sigmoidoscopy test for?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a diagnostic test used to examine the lower part of the colon, such as the sigmoid and descending colon. It can be used for colorectal screening for cancer, as well as diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal disorders and take tissue samples or biopsies. It may also help detect polyps, hemorrhoids, irritated or swollen tissue, ulcers, and cancers.

Are you put to sleep for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

No, you are not typically put to sleep for a flexible sigmoidoscopy as sedation is an option that you can discuss with your doctor. If sedation is chosen, fasting for 6 hours before the procedure is recommended.

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that uses a narrow, flexible tube with a light and tiny camera on the end to look inside the rectum and lower colon. Healthcare providers can view images of the intestine in detail on a screen to look for signs of disease.



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