This page will give you information about a flexible sigmoidoscopy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of the left, lower part of your colon (large bowel) using a flexible telescope.
What are the benefits of a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
If the endoscopist (the person doing the sigmoidoscopy) finds a problem, they can perform biopsies (removing small pieces of tissue) to help make the diagnosis.
Sometimes a polyp (small growth) is the cause of the problem and the endoscopist may be able to remove it during the procedure.
Are there any alternatives to a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
Other options include a CT colography (a CT scan of your large bowel).
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation or the operation is delayed?
Your doctor may not be able to confirm what the problem is, and your symptoms may get worse. If they do you should speak to your doctor.
If you decide not to have a flexible sigmoidoscopy, you should discuss this carefully with your doctor.
What does the procedure involve?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
You will not usually need a sedative. However, if the endoscopist recommends that you have a sedative, they will give it to you through a small needle in your arm or the back of your hand.
The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope into your back passage. Air will be blown into your large bowel to help the endoscopist have a clear view.
The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. Most polyps can be removed painlessly and completely during the test. They will be able to perform biopsies and take photographs to help make the diagnosis.
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What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
- breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
- rarely, a heart attack or stroke can happen if you have serious medical problems
- allergic reaction
- making a hole in your colon
- bleeding from a biopsy site or from minor damage caused by the telescope
- bleeding, if a polyp is removed
- missed polyp
- incomplete procedure
How soon will I recover?
If you were given a sedative, you will first be transferred to the recovery area where you can rest and have a drink. You will usually recover in about an hour but this depends on how much sedative you were given. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.
You should be able to return to work the next day unless you are told otherwise.
The healthcare team will tell you what was found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.
Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out if there is a problem with the lower part of your large bowel.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2022