A sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which a sigmoidoscope is used to look inside the rectum and lower colon. It is often indicated for patients being evaluated for anal bleeding, mucus, or protrusion; recurrent or chronic diarrhea; or used as a preoperative evaluation before anorectal surgery.

The procedure typically lasts 15 to 20 minutes. While it typically does not require a full colon preparation, your physician may ask that you follow a clear liquid diet on the day prior to the procedure along with overnight fasting and/or use saline enemas.

Day of the Procedure

We ask that you arrive 60 minutes ahead of your procedure start time to properly prepare. During that time, you will have the opportunity to ask your gastroenterologist any questions. Most patients need no sedation. During the exam, you may feel the urge to have a bowel movement as the scope is inserted through the anus and guided into your colon. You may also experience some abdominal cramping as air is pumped through the scope into the large intestine. These may last for an hour after your exam is complete.

If polyps are removed and biopsied, your physician will discuss this afterward with you and ask that you refrain from taking aspirin or NSAIDs for several days afterward.


After your procedure, you will be monitored and allowed to recover. You may experience abdominal soreness or feel bloating or cramping due to the air introduced during your test. Almost every patient can resume a normal diet immediately afterward. You will be sent home with a copy of your procedure report and instructions. Your referring physician will receive a copy of the report within the week. We suggest that you relax for the rest of the day and not attempt to work or drive.

A sigmoidoscopy is generally safe and complications are rare when performed by a board-certified gastroenterologist. As there is a slight risk that polyp removal may cause bleeding, you should take no aspirin, arthritis pills (other than acetaminophen/Tylenol), or other blood thinners for several days afterward. Your physician will inform you when you can resume these types of medications. Please call immediately if after the procedure you develop fever, significant pain, or bleeding.

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