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What Is A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex sig) is a procedure which enables the direct visualization of the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine).  A thin flexible tube is inserted into the anus and slowly advanced to the lower part of the colon.


When Is A Sigmoidoscopy Needed?

A sigmoidoscopy could be used when there is:

  • rectal bleeding
  • a change in bowel habits
  • history of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • a need to diagnose proctitis
  • left-sided colitis
  • unexplained diarrhea without abdominal pain
  • abdominal pain on the left side
  • sudden constipation


What Preparation Is Required?

In general, preparation consists of one or two fleet enemas prior to the procedure. In some circumstances, you may be advised to forego any special preparation.

  1. Purchase two (2) Fleet Enemas at any drug store (you do not need a prescription).
  2. Do not eat or drink for 8 hours prior to your scheduled appointment.
  3. Use the first enema 2 hours prior to leaving your home (follow package directions).
  4. Use the second enema ½ hour after the first enema.


Should You Continue My Current Medications?

Most medications can be continued as usual. Inform us about medications that you’re taking – particularly aspirin products or anticoagulants (blood thinners) — as well as any allergies you have to medications.


What Can You Expect During A Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well-tolerated.  You will lie on your left side during the examination and will have the option to be awake or sedated. You might experience a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure but these are temporary symptoms which will typically resolve within minutes.


What If The Scope Finds Something Abnormal?

If there is an abnormal area in the colon, a biopsy may be taken for further analysis. If a polyp is found, a biopsy is usually taken. A colonoscopy (a complete examination of the colon) is usually then recommended to remove the polyp and to search for additional polyps that may be present in areas of the colon that were not visualized by the sigmoidoscopy.


What Happens After A Flex Sig?

The results will be discussed with you when the procedure is completed. You might feel bloating or some mild cramping because of the air that was passed into the colon during the examination. This will disappear quickly when you pass gas. You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving our office, assuming you did not receive any sedative medication.


What Are The Possible Complications Of Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flex sig) and biopsy are considered very safe. Complications are rare, but it’s important for you to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact us if you notice severe abdominal pain, fevers, and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Note that rectal bleeding can occur several days after a biopsy.


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Meet Jennifer Bonheur, MD

Dr. Jennifer Bonheur is a board-certified gastroenterologist who loves her work and values her relationships with her patients. As a female gastroenterologist, she strives to connect and treat the patient and not simply the illness. Dr. Bonheur offers specialized care in gastroenterology and therapeutic endoscopy. Together with her staff, she is committed to providing the highest quality medical care in a comfortable, professional and personalized environment. Learn More »