- slide 1 of 3
Preparing for the test
When your doctor wants to do a complete inspection of your large intestine, the process will generally involve an examine using a flexible sigmoidoscopy. This form of colonscopy is much more comfortable than using the rigid sigmoidoscope but the procedure can still be disconcerting the first time it is ordered.
Preparing for this procedure begins with a discussion with the doctor the day the test is orders. Patients should begin by asking their doctor if they need to discontinue any of their existing medication before the procedure. Blood thinners like Warfarin are often discontinued for three to five days before the test. The doctor ordering the test will explain exactly how long the patient needs to be off the medication.
The doctor may also order a course of antibiotics before the test. People with a history of heart trouble or a heart murmur will generally be given antibiotics to take before the test.
Finally, the doctor will ask the patient for assistance in making the pathway a little more clear for the scope. Generally, this means patients are restricted to a liquid diet for 24 to 48 hours before the procedure. The night before the test patients often are asked to perform an enema at home and then they are given a second one about an hour before the test begins. Most doctors ask that patients have nothing to eat for about 12 hours before the test.
Once at the doctor’s office, the patient will be asked to disrobe and either lie of her left side on the examination table or kneel on table with her bottom in the air.
- slide 2 of 3
During the test
The flexible sigmiodoscope is a flexible tube about half an inch wide and slightly more than two feet long. A series of lights and lenses on the tube help the doctor to see the surrounding tissue as the scope is inserted and withdrawn from the colon.
During the test, the doctor may use small puffs of air to clear the path in front of the scope and suction is sometimes used to remove any remaining particulates that were not cleared prior to the test. Most patients report these portions of the test create cramping, similar to a need to use the bathroom.
The scope is lubricated and inserted slowly into the colon. The doctor may take biopsy sample as needed during the test. A local anesthetic is used at the sample site to prevent pain at the site. Once the tube has reached the spot the doctor wishes to observe, it is removed slowly while the doctor conducts a visual inspection of the tissue.
- slide 3 of 3
After the Test
After a patient has completed his flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor may release the patient to resume eating as normal. It is also important to consume larger than normal amounts of fluids to replenish liquids lost during the preparation for the test.
Most patients experience some discomfort after the test, usually in the form of gas pains. Walking may help the patient to pass gas and alleviate the discomfort. If the discomfort becomes sharp or severe pain or is accompanied by bleeding, the patient should return to the doctor’s office or go to the emergency room and report that they had the test earlier in the day. Incidents of injury related to the procedure are minimal but can happen.
Doctors may be able to tell the patient immediately some of the test results, including anything that looked unusual, but most doctors will opt to biopsy any suspicious areas and it may take several days to get biopsy results.
This diagnostic test is used primarily in screening for colorectal cancers and colorectal disease.