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What is Sigmoidoscopy and Proctoscopy?

Sigmoidoscopy and proctoscopy are diagnostic procedures performed with lighted viewing tubes called scopes introduced through the anus to inspect the lower end of the large intestine (sigmoid colon) and the rectum (just above the anus) respectively. Each procedure uses a particular scope which permits the doctor to inspect for any signs of disease or abnormalities such as tumors, polyps, ulcers, hemorrhoids, inflammation, or bleeding.

Sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy is usually performed to investigate unexplained or persistent bleeding, diarrhea, or constipation. They may be also performed to screen for colon cancer or to monitor existing abnormalities or assess treatment.

Procedure of Sigmoidoscopy and Proctoscopy

Before performing these procedures, your bowels are evacuated with the help of an enema or laxative to provide a clear unobstructed view. The procedures may be performed under mild sedation while lying on your left side or kneeling down. You may experience some discomfort or an urge to pass stool or gas with the procedures. During a proctoscopy, your doctor introduces a lubricated scope about 10 to 12 inches long through the anus to examine the inside of the rectum and the end of the colon. During a sigmoidoscopy, a longer lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is carefully guided to the sigmoid colon. The lens and light system of the sigmoidoscope allows it to be flexible and provides your doctor with a clear view even around bends in the intestine. To further improve visibility, the intestine may be suctioned or filled with air. Tissue samples may be obtained (biopsy) or small growths removed with the help of tiny instruments passed through the scope. A local anesthetic is usually administered when a biopsy is done. Sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy usually takes about 5-15 minutes.

Complications of Sigmoidoscopy and Proctoscopy

As with any invasive procedure, sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy may be associated with certain complications such as pain, bleeding or infection, and perforation of the rectum or colon.

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