• Overview

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A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside your sigmoid colon (last one-third of your colon) and rectum using a flexible telescope.

During this procedure your Consultant can diagnose reasons for changes in your bowel habits, pain, bleeding from your anus or weight loss. They can also look for early signs of cancer

Sometimes a polyp (small growth) is the cause of the problem and the endoscopist may be able to remove it during the procedure. 

Your consultant will advise you on how to prepare for your flexible sigmoidoscopy; this may include an enema when you arrive on the ward. Be sure and advise us of any medication you are currently taking.

What happens during flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy usually takes about 30 minutes. You may be offered a relaxant or some Entonox (laughing gas) to help you relax before the procedure.

Patients usually lie on their side on the examination table. The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope (endoscope) into your anus. Air will be blown into your large bowel so that they have a clear view. The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. They will be able to perform biopsies (take samples) and take photographs to help make the diagnosis.

After your flexible sigmoidoscopy

If you were given a sedative, you will normally recover in about an hour. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass. You may experience slight bleeding just after this procedure.

Your Consultant will tell you what was found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

  • Most of our patients are able to go back to work within 24 hours after the procedure unless they get told otherwise.
  • If you were given a sedative, a responsible adult should take you home in a car or taxi and stay with you for at least 12 hours. Be near a telephone in the case of an emergency.
  • Do not drive, operate machinery or do any potentially dangerous activities (this includes cooking) for at least 24 hours and not until you have fully recovered feeling, movement and co-ordination. You should also not sign legal documents or drink alcohol for at least 24 hours.

Some complications of flexible sigmoidoscopy:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
  • Puncture of the colon
  • Bleeding
  • Incomplete procedure


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