A sigmoidoscopy is a comprehensive rectal diagnostic procedure. This involves inserting a flexible tube-shaped device called a ‘sigmoidoscope’ into the rectum to examine the inner linings of the rectum and colon. The sigmoid colon is the portion of the large intestine nearest to the rectum and it gets affected due to a variety of medical disorders and diseases. In case of severe disorders or emergency situations the surgeon/doctor might need to determine the location of the disorder in the colon or check for its extent of affecting.

How is a Sigmoidoscopy performed?

A sigmoidoscopy is a detailed rectal examination method used to determine the presence of a number of various medical disorders found to affect your colon or the rectum. A sigmoidoscopy is now preformed using various different devices and methods such as a flexible sigmoidoscope, proctoscopy, proctosigmoidoscopy, rigid sigmoidoscopy and colon cancer sigmoidoscopy among others. The test is performed as an outpatient procedure and usually requires 10-20 minutes for the complete procedure. You are required to lie down on your side with your knees pulled up to the chin. The doctor gently places a gloved finger inside the rectum to check for blockages and also to enlarge the anus. This is known as a ‘digital rectal exam’. The doctor will then use a thin and flexible tube-like device called as a ‘sigmoidoscope’ to insert into your anus. This sigmoidoscope is attached with a small video camera at one end and is steadily moved to your colon. The doctor will use air pressure to enlarge the colon and help the doctor view it in more detail. In case the air causes an urge to pass gas or bowels the doctor will use a specialized suction device to remove stool or other fluids from the rectum. The sigmoidoscopy might also require the doctor to take samples of tissue for biopsy using a small specialized biopsy tool. Patients with polyps in the colon may require electro-cautery method to remove the polyps through heat. The sigmoidoscope also allows the doctor to take images of the inside of the colon and rectum for detailed study and diagnosis. A sigmoidoscope may be fixed to a flexible tube for a simple diagnosis while a rigid sigmoidoscope may be used in case the patient is suffering from problems of the anus or the rectum. 

Why is a Sigmoidoscopy required?

A sigmoidoscopy is a vital diagnostic procedure in determining the presence of a large number of medical disorders and diseases that might affect a person’s colon or the rectum and cause painful symptoms as well as loss of daily normal activities. A sigmoidoscopy is recommended for:
  • Diarrhea, constipation, changes in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mucus, pus or blood seen in the stool
  • Unexplained loss in weight
  • Confirming diagnosis performed initially through X-ray test or other diagnostic tests
  • Screening for colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Taking a biopsy of the abnormal growth
A sigmoidoscopy at the right time and performed by an experienced specialist can help detect the signs of fatal cancers and other life-threatening diseases at the earliest and thus helps in avoiding a complicated and (often) risky treatment procedure.

Why is a Sigmoidoscopy important?

A sigmoidoscopy is usually advised for patients with unexplained abdominal pain as it can mean a large number of things such as:
  • Anorectal abscess
  • Anal fissures
  • Large intestine blockage
  • Cancer
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Diverticulosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infection (proctitis)
  • Bowel inflammation
Such types of causes may be a result of various medical disorders or diseases that could turn out be fatal in some cases. A prompt sigmoidoscopy at the doctor’s suggestion might mean the difference between a successful diagnosis and eventual treatment and a delayed diagnosis of such disorders may result in other life-threatening complications from arising. 

Are there any risks involved in a Sigmoidoscopy?

The risk of complication in a sigmoidoscopy is very small as it is a least-invasive medical procedure and does not involve making incisions, etc. Very rare cases may face the chances of bowel perforation (intestine tearing) or bleeding at the biopsy site due to excision of the polyp (or abnormal growth). The doctor/specialist performing the sigmoidoscopy will take every possible precaution required to prevent any such kind of risk of complications from arising.  
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