Test / Diagnostic Procedure: 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) using a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope. Pricing from: £1,595

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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. Your specialist will be looking at the images on a video monitor. A flexible sigmoidoscopy test 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:

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 flexible sigmoidoscopy 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 be 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.


After your flexible sigmoidoscopy, you may feel some discomfort from trapped air. This should settle over the first few hours. To help pass the wind, we suggest that you walk around if possible, drink warm drinks or peppermint water.

Test / diagnostic pricing

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy starts from: £1,595



Health Insurance

This service or treatment is generally covered by most health insurance policies. You are responsible for checking your insurance policy cover, and you may need a referral letter. Check which insurance companies are covered.


Doctor Referral Only

You will generally need to get a referral letter from your NHS GP, Private GP, or other doctor to access this service or treatment. Find out more including how we can assist you


Self-Pay Available

This treatment is available for self-paying users. If you would like to see more information on pricing visit our pricing and payments page.


Payment Plan

Set up a monthly payment plan to spread the cost of your treatment. Find out more about our payment plans.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Specialists

We have brought together a group of leading colorectal and general surgeons and gastroenterologists to create our Digestive Health team. With over 300 years of combined experience, these expert clinicians are the best in their field and are all focused on delivering the very best patient care.