Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

It is an examination of the lining of the lower large bowel. A thin flexible tube with a bright light on the end is passed into your back passage, so that the doctor or nurse specialist can see what might be causing the problem. It takes about 5 – 15 minutes.

What preparation is needed?
  • For this examination to be successful your bowel must be as empty as possible.
  • You will have a small enema when you come into the hospital for your sigmoidoscopy, to clear the lower bowel. Occasionally a more thorough preparation is needed with laxatives starting the day before your examination; in this case you will be given the necessary instructions.
  • You may eat and drink as normal.
  • You can continue to take any medicines or tablets as usual; please bring them with you into hospital.
On the day of the examination
  • Please go to the reception of the Day Treatment Centre, Level 3.
  • There a nurse will check your pulse and blood pressure.
  • If you have any questions about the examination please ask the nurse.
  • If you are allergic to any medication please tell the nurse.
  • You will be given a gown to change into.
  • Then you will have a small enema unless you have already had a different preparation.
What does the examination involve?
  • The doctor or nurse specialist performing the examination will explain the procedure and ask you to sign the consent form to confirm that you understand it and agree to go ahead with it. Do ask any questions if you wish.
  • Then while you are lying comfortably on your left side the doctor or nurse specialist will gently pass a small flexible tube (the sigmoidoscope) into the lower end of the large bowel via the back passage.
  • Some air is passed into the bowel to expand it so that the lining can be seen more clearly. This may give you some windy discomfort, but it will not last long.
  • Air that has been passed into the bowel will obviously need to come out and may do so during the examination. Please do not worry about this, it is perfectly normal.
  • A biopsy (a sample of the bowel lining) may be taken during the examination and sent to the laboratory for some extra tests. This is done via the sigmoidoscope and you will not feel it.
  • When the test is finished the tube is removed quickly and easily.
What happens then?
  • The doctor or nurse specialist who has performed your flexible sigmoidoscopy will explain the results to you. If you need a further appointment this can be arranged in the department.
  • After the procedure you may still have a little wind. This will pass and you do not need to take any medication for it.
  • As soon as you feel ready you may go home.
  • If you are having a sedative, you must have someone who can take you home. Due to the effects of the sedation, we cannot perform your procedure with a sedative unless you have an adult who can pick you up from the Day Treatment Centre and escort you home. There are no exceptions to this.
Are there any risks?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a very safe examination, but very rarely problems can occur:
  • Bleeding inside – after a biopsy is taken there can be a little bleeding. If it does not stop after 24 hours and you notice blood in your stools when you go to the toilet, you should contact your GP or contact our clinical team by phoning the hospital switchboard on 0207 272 3070 and ask for bleep number 2711 (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm).
  • Perforation – this is a small tear in the lining of the bowel, which can happen during the test. It may not need treating at all, but occasionally it may need repairing with surgery, in which case you would need to stay in hospital.
Any further questions?

Please phone us, we will be happy to help.

If you have a question about your appointment time and/or how to change it, phone our admin team on 0207 288 3820.

If you have a question about your procedure or your medications, contact our clinical team by phoning the hospital switchboard on 0207 272 3070 and ask for bleep number 2711. Alternatively, phone your GP or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
Last updated26 Jun 2008
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