Proctoscopy is a medical procedure where a doctor examines the rectum and anal cavity with a proctoscope. This device can help a doctor detect and diagnose conditions that may affect the rectum.

Proctoscopy is a common rectal examination that helps a doctor visualize the rectum. For the procedure, a healthcare professional gently inserts a proctoscope into the rectum through the anus.

A proctoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing the anal sphincter. It allows a doctor to detect any abnormal growths, diagnose disease, and remove a tissue sample for further testing. Additionally, a doctor may consider using proctoscopy for very specific questions and indications.

A gastroenterologist, which is a digestive system specialist, can perform a proctoscopy, usually in an outpatient setting.

In this article, we will provide an overview of proctoscopy, including its uses, the procedure, and recovery times.

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Proctoscopy is not as common today as it once was. Typically, a doctor will suggest a proctoscopy due to a strong clinical history or suspicion of a health issue in the anal region. A doctor may recommend a proctoscopy for the following reasons:

  • detecting the cause of constipation
  • finding the cause and location of anal bleeding
  • removing a sample of tissue for testing or biopsy
  • screening for colorectal cancer, in addition to other screening tools, or monitoring the progression of the disease
  • scanning and removing any abnormal growth, such as tumors, polyps, hemorrhoids, or carcinoma

A 2020 study evaluating the health outcomes of people following transanal endoscopic surgery found the following:

  • Proctoscopy is a viable procedure with results similar to other techniques.
  • Proctoscopy gives surgeons more access to the rectal sphincters.
  • Surgeons may adopt the use of rigid proctoscopy in surgical practice.
  • Compared with other procedures, proctoscopy is a cheap, conventional technique with a shorter operative time and a lower rate of postoperative complications.

While considering this procedure, a person should discuss with the healthcare professional any medications they are taking. This includes:

  • prescription drugs
  • over-the-counter medications
  • herbs, vitamins, and supplements

A doctor may recommend that a person stops taking some or all of these medications for a few days before the procedure to reduce the risks of some complications and help the doctor more easily examine the area.

Preparation can also include cleaning out the rectum of any stool by using an enema or laxative. However, this may not be necessary, and a person should only use an enema or laxative if their doctor advises doing so.

The doctor can carry out a proctoscopy in a hospital or outpatient clinic. Most proctoscopy procedures do not require anesthesia. The doctor may first perform a digital rectal examination by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the anus to check for any sore areas or blockages.

The doctor will gently insert the lubricated proctoscope into the anus. A person may feel some cramps or an urge to have a bowel movement. Sometimes, the doctor may take one or more tissue samples with a small tool attached to the proctoscope.

Typically, a person may feel mild discomfort, but they should not feel any pain during the procedure. The doctor will remove the proctoscope after the procedure. The procedure may take about 10 minutes.

There are a few risks and side effects associated with a proctoscopy. This may include:

  • infection
  • rectal perforation
  • light rectal bleeding
  • mild gastrointestinal discomfort

It is normal to experience some discomfort in the rectum and anus immediately after the procedure. A person may experience light bleeding from their rectum or notice blood in their bowel movements for a few days afterward. This is expected, especially after a biopsy.

Some people may also have bloating or gas if the doctor introduces air into the rectum. During recovery, a person should contact the doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • a fever
  • severe abdominal pain
  • a hard or swollen belly
  • a large amount of blood in your stool
  • bleeding that lasts for more than a few days

The doctor who performs the proctoscopy will share the result after the test.

If the doctor performs a biopsy, the result might take a few days to a week. The doctor will discuss the biopsy results with the patient when the result is available.

The doctor will inform a person if they need more testing or require a follow-up appointment.

A sigmoidoscopy is a diagnostic test to check the sigmoid colon.

The sigmoid is the last section of the large intestine connected to the rectum. A sigmoidoscope helps the doctor reach past the rectum into the sigmoid colon, since it is longer than a proctoscope.

This means the doctor can better visualize the colon and screen a more significant part of it than with a proctoscope.

A doctor may recommend a colonoscopy over a proctoscopy to screen for colon cancer and diagnose the cause of abdominal discomfort or rectal bleeding.

While a proctoscopy only examines the rectum, a colonoscopy allows the doctor to visualize the entire colon farther from the rectum.

The doctor will most likely perform a colonoscopy with a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope. It is the longest of all three rectal examination devices and allows the doctor to view the whole length of the colon.

Proctoscopy is a common rectal examination that helps doctors better visualize the rectum for diagnostic purposes. For the procedure, a doctor will gently insert a proctoscope — a small, tube-like instrument — into the rectum through the anus.

To prepare for the procedure, a doctor may recommend performing an enema to empty the bowels and allow better access to the rectum. Risks are usually mild but may include infection, rectal perforation, rectal bleeding, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Depending on a person’s symptoms, the doctor can recommend a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy over a proctoscopy.