Proctoscopy (Rigid Sigmoidoscopy)

A proctoscopy (rigid sigmoidoscopy) is a procedure to examine the insides of the rectum and the anus. A proctoscope is a hollow tube, usually with a tiny light at the end, that can also be used to take tissue samples for biopsies as a cancer screening tool. The procedure also helps your gastroenterologist find other causes of rectal and anal bleeding, such as hemorrhoids.


What is a proctoscopy?

A proctoscopy (also called rigid sigmoidoscopy) is a procedure to examine the inside of the rectum and the anus. It is usually done to look for tumors, polyps, inflammation, bleeding, or hemorrhoids.

A proctoscope is a straight, hollow metal or plastic tube, sometimes with a tiny light at the end, that allows the gastroenterologist to make a detailed examination of the rectum. An instrument that can take tissue samples for biopsy may be inserted through the hollow tube.


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What is the rectum?

The rectum is the final section of the lower gastrointestinal tract that ends at the anus. The rectum stores feces until they can be emptied from the body. The rectum is able to expand and contract. When it expands, it produces the urge to defecate.

Why is a proctoscopy done?

A proctoscopy is done to:

  • Detect disease in the rectum or anus.
  • Find the source of anal bleeding.
  • Find the cause of diarrhea or constipation.
  • Remove or monitor the development of existing polyps or growths.
  • Screen for colon cancer or monitor rectal cancer that has already been treated.


Procedure Details

How do I prepare for a proctoscopy?

The most important preparation for proctoscopy is to thoroughly clean out the rectum. It is important that this is done. The more completely the rectum is emptied, the easier it is for the doctor to examine it.

Various methods can be used to clean the rectum; your doctor will recommend the best way for your case. Many doctors will recommend using an enema to clear waste. Be sure to follow instructions as directed.

What should I expect during a proctoscopy?

Proctoscopy can be performed in either a hospital or outpatient office. Most proctoscopy examinations do not require anesthesia.

The doctor will first do a preliminary rectal exam with a gloved lubricated finger, then gently insert the proctoscope. As the scope is slowly and carefully passed through, you may feel as if you need to move your bowels. Because air is introduced into your bowel to help the doctor see better with the proctoscope, you may feel some cramping or fullness. Generally, there is little discomfort during the procedure.


Risks / Benefits

What are the risks of a proctoscopy?

There is little risk associated with proctoscopy. It is possible that a patient may experience rectal bleeding as a result of the insertion of the proctoscope or if the lining of the rectum is irritated. A patient may also develop an infection after the procedure. Both complications are rare.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 08/07/2020.

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