All About Anoscopes: Different Types of Anoscopes, Applications & Benefits

All About Anoscopes: Different Types of Anoscopes, Their Applications and Benefits

Both patients and new medical students can easily be scared at the thought of an anal examination. An anoscope, however, is a tool that makes this process generally quick and painless. I've put together this guide to anoscopy and the tool that makes it possible--the anoscope--to help ease your comfort with this procedure.

Anoscope Basics

An anoscope is a tool that is used to examine a patient's anus and rectum. With an anoscope, a doctor can identify anorectal concerns or diseases.

Problems that can be identified during an examination with an anoscope include hemorrhoids, fissures, anal polyps and tumors. An anoscope might be used when there is a foreign object stuck in the anal cavity. It is also useful to look for signs of inflammation or infection.

There are generally two parts to an anoscope: a hollow tube and an obturator. The obturator fills the tube during insertion but can be removed during the examination.

An anoscope is different from a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope. These are designed to examine part or all of the colon. An anoscope is contained to the lowest part of this system; it is just for examining the anal and rectal region. Therefore, it is shorter and measures approximately three to five inches in length.

The anoscope's construction is different from that of a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope, as well. While those devices are flexible in order to travel up the colon, an anoscope is made of rigid material.

It is often comprised of translucent plastic but can also be made of metal or opaque plastic. When made of translucent material, the doctor can see through the sides of the device to better identify problem areas.

An anoscope is also known as an anal speculum. See what an anoscope looks like and learn more about its uses in the video "Anoscope and Digital Rectal Exam."


Making an examination with an anoscope is called anoscopy. This procedure is often performed on an outpatient basis or in a practitioner's office. It is recommended when a patient presents with symptoms of an anal or rectal disease.

Before the procedure, the doctor may ask the patient to prepare his bowels with laxatives or enemas. Even if this is not done, it is a good idea to try to empty the bladder and the bowels beforehand.

For the exam, the patient positions himself so as to provide the doctor access to the anal opening. The medical professional applies lubricant to the anoscope to help with insertion. If the patient pushes down, as if having a bowel movement, this can also make insertion easier.

Although the obturator is typically in place during insertion, it is removed after the anoscope is properly positioned. Pus or mucus on the obturator can be studied for signs of disease or infection.

The hollow tube of the anoscope is rotated so the doctor can see all sides of the rectum. A light can help the practitioner get a good look at the passage. The doctor may take a tissue sample for biopsy. After the examination is complete, the anoscope is withdrawn.

Anoscopy is generally a quick procedure. Pain is uncommon, and anesthesia is not typically required. Some discomfort is possible, however.

Types of Anoscopes

Although all used for similar examination purposes, anoscopes come in a variety of styles. Ahead, find details on some of the most common types of anoscopes.

Lighted Anoscopes

A light is usually used in conjunction with an anoscope to help the doctor carefully examine the anus and rectum. Although a separate light can be used, for ease of examination, many devices come with a built-in light.

With an integrated light, and an additional set of hands is not required to hold the light source. The doctor has both hands available with which to operate the scope and perform the exam. Nurses, too, are free to carry out their duties without concerning themselves with the light.

Reusable Versus Disposable Anoscopes

Medical practitioners have a choice between reusable and one-time-use anoscopy tools. A reusable anoscope will have a higher up-front price tag, but it may save money over time.

However, care must be taken to clean the device very thoroughly between each use, especially since a different patient will probably be using it each time. To fully sterilize an anoscope, it must be fully disassembled. Upon careful reassembly, a thorough examination will ensure that the anoscope is still in good condition.

Disposable anoscopes have a lower per-unit cost, but this cost is incurred each time a device is used. Even still, many practitioners appreciate that a disposable anoscope reduces the risk of cross-contamination and infection.

Power sources for built-in lights differ for reusable versus disposable anoscopes. Multi-use ones require electric cords or rechargeable batteries to power the unit. One-time-use units have built in batteries that are disposed of along with the device.

Anoscope Structures

Various anal specula can be shaped differently from one another. Some have a tapered shape. This includes the Hinkle-James style of anoscope. It is sometimes longer than other anoscope structures and can be helpful when a patient has ample buttocks tissue.

Other anal specula have straight sides with a beveled tip. There are also versions with side openings.

Despite the differences in style, one anoscope generally works fairly similarly to another.

Pediatric Anoscopes

Similar to a regular anoscope but smaller in size, a pediatric anoscope is designed for use with children. A pediatric anal speculum can also be used with adult patients who experience pain with a full-sized tool.

Whatever its style, an anoscope is used to examine the anal and rectal area. This examination can help diagnose and treat anorectal concerns. If you have anoscope questions, please leave a comment.

  • An anoscope can be reusable or disposable.
  • A light helps improves visibility.
  • Despite various styles, anal specula generally all work the same way.

Brian Chandler