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What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that allows your gastroenterologist (GI specialist) to examine the lower part of your large bowel (the colon).
This test uses a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which is about the thickness of your index finger.
During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, the endoscope is gently inserted into your bottom (rectum) and the lower part of the colon. You specialist will be looking at the images on a video monitor. A flexible sigmoidoscopy test as is a minimally invasive day case procedure. So, you should be able to return home the same day,
Before your sigmoidoscopy test, you will meet with your gastroenterology consultant. They will explain what the test involves, how to prepare for it, and will answer any questions you may have.
When you discuss the procedure, tell your specialist about any medications or supplements you take. as well as medical conditions that you may have, such as heart or lung disease. You may need to stop taking some of these medicines before the procedure.
Why is a flexible sigmoidoscopy performed?
This type of endoscopy test is a very accurate way of looking at the lining of your left side of your large bowel (colon) to confirm whether there are any abnormalities present. It is commonly used to investigate symptoms such as:
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Bleeding from your bottom
This flexible endoscope test is also used to check for certain bowel conditions such as:
- Inflammation (for example, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Early signs of bowel cancer (colon cancer)
- Polyps (benign or non-cancerous growths
You do not usually need an anaesthetic or sedative for a flexible sigmoidoscopy, since it typically causes little pain.
If you are very nervous about the procedure you can discuss this with your GI specialist beforehand, and flexible sigmoidoscopy sedation can be arranged.
Preparing for a flexible sigmoidoscopy
When you arrive in the unit for the procedure, you will be given an enema, which is a technique used to stimulate stool (poo) evacuation. During an enema, a fluid is passed into the back passage to clean the first part of the rectum and colon. You will be asked to lie on your side while this is administered by a nurse.
After 5 to 10 minutes, you will evacuate the liquid and waste through your bottom.
What does the procedure involve?
During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, you will be lying on your side. Once the endoscope is inserted into the bowel, your specialist will gently pump some carbon dioxide gas inside. This will allow them to see the lining of your lower bowel more clearly.
The flexible sigmoidoscopy test will take approximately 10-20 minutes.
During the procedure, your digestive health specialist may take small samples of tissue (biopsies) from the lining of your bowel for examination in the laboratory. A biopsy or the removal of polyps does not normally cause pain or discomfort.
Private sigmoidoscopy tests
As a patient at OneWelbeck Digestive Health in London, you will receive specialist care in first-class, comfortable facilities, with personalised nursing care to suit your individual needs. We use the latest medical equipment to ensure the test is of the highest quality.
Recovering from a Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Following your flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure at OneWelbeck Digestive Health, you will be able to rest in a private, comfortable recovery area, and return home, without an overnight stay.
If you did not receive any sedatives, you should be able to resume your normal activities that day. If you were given a sedative, this will affect your reflexes for the rest of the day. So, it is important that you arrange to have someone to drive you home after the procedure. Do not drive or operate machinery until the next day.
Some results from this endoscopic test will available on the same day, and your GI specialist will discuss these with you before you leave. Results from a biopsy may take a few days to become available.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy risks
Complications after a flexible sigmoidoscopy are very rare when this procedure is performed by experienced gastroenterology specialists.
You may feel rather bloated, and experience mild abdominal cramping (tummy cramps) and pressure on the tummy for a short time. This will be due to the air that was passed into the colon during the examination. These symptoms will usually disappear after a few hours.
Contact your specialist if you notice:
- Severe abdominal pain (tummy ache)
- High temperature (fever) or chills
- Rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup
Rectal bleeding (bleeding from the bottom) can occur several days after the examination, if you have had a biopsy.
You can reduce your risk of flexible sigmoidoscopy complications by carefully following your specialist’s instructions, such as fasting and stopping certain medications before the procedure.
OneWelbeck patients will be offered the use of the MyRecovery smartphone app. This doctor-designed app acts as a mobile patient companion to guide you through the steps to prepare for the flexible sigmoidoscopy and prevent and delays to your care.
The app will use two methods to provide you with a seamless flexible sigmoidoscopy experience by offering you the right information at the right time through:
- Video messages from your consultant and clinical team
- Pre-procedure checklists that are visible to you and your clinical team
Timed alerts will appear on the MyRecovery phone app to remind you about the next step in your bowel prep. The app will also explain the procedure, give tips and provide pictures of bowel preparation quality.
To ask a question about our procedures at OneWelbeck or to book an appointment, contact our team today.
We are available from Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm.