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What is a Proctoscopy?

By Misty Wiser
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A proctoscopy is a medical procedure performed by a physician to examine the interior of the anal cavity, sigmoid colon, or rectum for disease or abnormalities. During the exam, the physician will insert an instrument called a proctoscope into the anus, allowing the inspection of the interior for polyps or hemorrhoids. The proctoscopy examination usually lasts about 15 minutes or less.

The proctoscopy procedure is typically done to screen for colon cancer or to monitor the growth of rectal polyps. This exam can show underlying problems with the colon that may cause continuous diarrhea or constipation. A physician may order a proctoscopy to determine the cause of blood or pus in bowel movements. Unexplained lower abdominal pain may indicate a need for a proctoscopy to screen for diseases of the colon.

Prior to the proctoscopy, the colon must be completely emptied of all fecal matter. Physicians may require a liquid diet for a day before the test, or advise abstaining from food for a period of at least 12 hours before the appointment. An enema is usually given the night before the exam, and again an hour before the proctoscopy begins. The fluid solution in the enema causes an increase in the peristaltic movements of the colon, resulting in a quick emptying of the contents. If permitted by the physician, laxatives may be used as an alternative to an enema.

During the procedure the patient will need to lie on his side on an examining table. A proctoscope will be lubricated and gently inserted into the anus. The physician may add short bursts of air to the rectal cavity through the proctoscope to aid in the visibility of the interior cavity. Later, the air will gradually dissipate or be eliminated as flatulence. Some patients will experience mild cramping and feel a slight pressure from the scope used in the examination.

After the complete insertion of the proctoscope, the physician may take tissue samples or remove rectal growths found during the exam. Some proctoscopes have a hollowed out space designed for the insertion of a tube with a fiber-optic camera attached to it, enabling the physician to take pictures for later examination. A relay lens may be attached to the proctoscope for the physician to view the rectal cavity. When the exam is completed, the proctoscope will be gently removed from the anus and any lubricant will be cleaned from the area. Any tissue biopsied will be sent to a laboratory for further testing.

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