This procedure is used to examine the rectum and lower colon (sigmoid colon). The viewing instrument, a sigmoidoscope, is 60 cm. long and the thickness of a finger. It is inserted through the anus and slowly worked through the rectum and into the lower colon. This procedure is a simple method for evaluating the cause of rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, rectal pain and diarrhea. Sigmoidoscopy can also be used to perform biopsies (removal of tissue samples) for polyp removal and cancer screening.
Before the procedure, the bowel and rectum must be clear of fecal matter. Therefore, the physician may prescribe a liquid diet and a few cleansing enemas. A laxative may also be necessary to remove any additional fecal matter. You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking, and if you have heart valve abnormalities or hip/knee prostheses. In these cases, antibiotics may be needed before the procedure in order to avoid infection.
During the procedure, the patient will feel only mild discomfort including bloating, pressure and cramping. While lying on his/her left side, the sigmoidoscope will be inserted into the rectum and lower colon. A view of these organs will be shown on a TV monitor. The physician will carefully examine the lining of the colon and rectum when retracting the sigmoidoscope. The procedure lasts 5-15 mins.
Complication are very rare but include perforation of the colon lining, which requires surgery to repair, and bleeding from the site of biopsy. If you experience any of the following side effects you should contact your physician immediately: severe abdominal pain, fever, chills or rectal bleeding.
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