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    Flexible sigmoidoscopy; Sigmoidoscopy - flexible; Proctoscopy; Proctosigmoidoscopy; Rigid sigmoidoscopy

    Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the sigmoid colon and rectum.

    How the Test is Performed

    You will be asked to lie on your left side with your knees drawn up to your chest.

    A gastroenterologist or surgeon usually performs the test.

    The doctor willcarefullyplace a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum to check for blockage and gently enlarge (dilate) the anus. This is called a digital rectal exam.

    Next, a flexible tube with a camera on the(sigmoidoscope) is placed through the anus. The scope isgently moved into your colon. Air isinserted into the colon toenlarge the area and help the doctor see better. The air may cause the urge to have a bowel movement or pass gas. Suction may be used to remove fluid or stool.

    The doctor may take tissue samples with a tiny biopsy tool inserted through the scope. Heat (electrocautery) may be used to remove polyps. Images of the inside of your colon may be taken. 

    Sigmoidoscopy using a rigid scope may be done to treat problems of the anus or rectum.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to prepare for the exam. You will usean enema to empty your bowels. This isusually done 1 hour before the sigmoidoscopy.

    On the morning of the procedure, eat a light breakfast.

    How the Test Will Feel

    During the exam you may feel:

    • Pressure during the digital rectal exam or when the scopeis placed inyour rectum
    • The need to have a bowel movement
    • Some bloating or cramping caused by the air or by stretching of the bowel by the sigmoidoscope

    After the test, your body will pass the air that was put into your colon.

    Children may be sedated for this procedure.

    Why the Test is Performed

    You doctor may recommend this test to look for the cause of:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea, constipation, or other changes in bowel habits
    • Blood, mucus, or pus in the stool
    • Weight loss

    This test can also be used to:

    • Confirm findings of another test or x-rays
    • Screen for colorectal cancer or polyps
    • Take a biopsy of a growth

    Normal Results

    Anormaltest result willshowno problems with the color,texture, and size ofthe lining of the sigmoid colon, rectal mucosa, rectum, and anus.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    Abnormal results can indicate:

    • Anal fissures
    • Anorectal abscess
    • Bowel obstruction
    • Cancer
    • Colorectal polyps
    • Diverticulosis (abnormal pouches on the lining of the intestines)
    • Hemorrhoids
    • Hirschsprung's disease
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Inflammation or infection (proctitis)


    There is a slight risk of bowel perforation (tearing a hole) and bleeding at the biopsy sites. The overall risk is very small.


    Smith RA, Cokkinides V, Brooks D, Saslow D, Brawley OW. Cancer screening in the United States. 2010: a review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and issues in cancer screening. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010;60:99-119.

    Weinberg DS. In the clinic: colorectal cancer screening. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(3):ITC2-1-ITC2-16.

    Kahn E, Daum F. Anatomy, histology, embryology, and developmental anomalies of the small and large intestine. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 96.


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      A Closer Look

        Tests for Sigmoidoscopy

        Review Date: 10/8/2012

        Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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