This information is approved and/or reviewed by U-M Health System providers but it is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for medical treatment. You should speak to your physician or make an appointment to be seen if you have questions or concerns about this information or your medical condition.| Complete disclaimer


What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the lower 20 inches of the colon using a lighted, flexible tube about the thickness of your finger. Your doctor will insert the tube through your rectum, then into the lower portion of your colon. The doctor will examine the lining of the lower colon for any abnormalities. The flexible sigmoidoscopy will help your doctor make a diagnosis or rule out possible conditions. If necessary, an instrument can be passed through the tube to take a small piece of tissue (a biopsy) for examination in the lab. Biopsies are done for many reasons and do not necessarily imply cancer. Often during this process of diagnosis, your doctor may perform other minor procedures that will benefit you. The procedure will take about 20 minutes, but expect the visit to the Medical Procedures Unit to last at least one hour to allow time for preparation and follow-up with the doctor.

The day of the procedure - patient information
1. If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call 734-936-9250, option 1 as soon as possible.

2. Please bring the following with you on the day of your flexible sigmoidoscopy:

3. You may eat your normal diet and take your usual medications.

4. In order for the doctor to see the lining of your colon, it must be free of stool. You will need to insert two phosphate enemas, one-half to one hour before you leave home for the hospital. Phosphate enemas may be purchased at any drugstore. One such product is Fleets. Be sure to use an enema product and not an oral or liquid laxative. Follow the directions below. If your travel time is more than two hours, please discuss this with the nurse when your procedure is scheduled.

Enema insertion directions:

1. Lie on your left side.

2. Remove the cap from the tip of the bottle.

3. Insert the tip of the enema bottle gently into your rectum, about four inches.

4. Slowly squeeze the entire contents of the bottle into your rectum.

5. hold the fluid inside of you for about 15 minutes, if possible.

6. Sit on the toilet and expel the fluid.

7. Immediately repeat steps 1-6 for the second enema.

How is the procedure performed?
In the preparation area you will answer questions about your health history, current medicines and allergies. You will sign a consent form and change into a hospital gown.

The flexible sigmoidoscopy will be performed in a room specially designed for endoscopic procedures.

You will be asked to lie on your left side. The doctor will insert the lubricated tube into the rectum and through the lower portion of the colon. As the scope passes through the curves, you may feel some pressure or discomfort. The nurse will encourage you to breathe slowly and deeply to ease any discomfort. The doctor will put air into your colon in order to see the lining. You may have some bloating or abdominal discomfort from the air. You may feel as though you have to have a bowel movement. Pass the air if you feel the need. The doctor will remove as much air as possible after the procedure.

Because this exam is usually quick and simple, you will not be sedated.

Potential Complications
Complications are extremely rare. However, there are potential complications associated with all medical procedures, and these will be explained to you at the time you sign your consent for the procedure.

Your Doctor
Due to rotating doctor schedules your procedure may not be performed by the doctor who saw you in the clinic. A doctor specially trained in gastrointestinal procedures will perform the test. After the procedure, the doctor who performed the procedure will explain the preliminary results to you and give the procedure results to the doctor who ordered your procedure.

After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area so you can change into your clothing and receive discharge instructions. You will be able to drive yourself home. If you want to bring a family member or friend with you, a comfortable waiting area is available.

U-M Health System Related Sites:
Department of Internal Medicine Division of Gastroenterology

Other Related Web Sites:
NIDDK Diagnostic Tests - Sigmoidoscopy
Your Digestive System and How it Works

Information provided by UMHS Medical Procedures Unit staff, July 2006