Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test using a narrow, flexible, tube-like telescope called a sigmoidoscope, which is carefully inserted through your anus. It allows your doctor to look inside your rectum and the lower part of your bowel to help assess symptoms such as rectal pain or changes in bowel movements.

It is also used to check for inflammation, early signs of cancer and polyps and it is also possible to remove polyps and treat haemorrhoids during the procedure. Your doctor may take biopsies for examination in a laboratory.

A colonoscopy examines the entire colon, while a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a partial exam that only covers the left side of the colon.

The test usually takes around fifteen minutes and can feel uncomfortable.

Your endoscopist will ask you to lie down on your left side in a comfortable position. Your oxygen levels and heart rate will be monitired using a finger clip.

Your endoscopist will carefully insert the sigmoidoscope (flexible telescope) into your back passage using lubricating jelly to make this as easy as possible.

Air is then usually pumped through the tube into the lower bowel to make it expand and the bowel wall easier to see. This may cause some stomach cramps and you may get an urge to go to the toilet or pass wind.

A camera lens at the end of the sigmoidoscope sends pictures from the inside of your bowel to a TV screen for your doctor to view. You may be asked to change your position to enable your doctor to examine different areas of the bowel more easily.

As you are admitted as a day case, you would normally be able to go home on the same day although you may feel bloated and have stomach cramps, these usually clear up quickly.

Occasionally your surgeon might want to look at your rectal lining in the outpatient clinic and rather than go to the trouble of flexible sigmoidoscopy may simply insert a lighted plastic tube through your anus. There is no need for sedation or to stay in hospital after this procedure.

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