What Is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

What is flexible sigmoidoscopy? It's a camera test that can be used to investigate your bowel when you have unusual Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.

The test is performed by an endoscopist, a person trained to pass an endoscope into the colon.

They can view images on a screen and is used as a screening tool to make sure you haven't got any other bowel conditions.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

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What Is A Flexible Sigmoidoscope?


A sigmoidoscope is a thin, telescope the width of your little finger.

It has a light that passes through fibre optics to inside.

It also has channels to allow biopsy forceps (to take pieces of tissue samples) to be passed through as well as other instruments.

There's a water channel for flushing away debris too. An air channel allows air into the colon to inflate it and allow safe inspection.

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Preparing For A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Test


The bowel has to be cleaned out using laxatives prior to the procedure.

The choice of laxative and the method of preparation can vary from one hospital to another, so you will be informed what to do before your appointment.

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How Is The Test Performed?


When you enter the endoscopy room, you will be instructed to lay on your left side.

The sigmoidoscope is passed through the anus into the rectum.

The Endoscopist then passes the endoscope around the left side of the large bowel to the splenic flexure (angle of the colon near your spleen) and sometimes into the transverse colon.

During the test, biopsies will be taken of anything abnormal to analyse in the histopathology.

Polyps (cherry-like protuberances) will be removed if found.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is normally  performed as a day patient and can be done with or without sedation.

If sedation is given, a benzodiazepine drug and a pain killer as sometimes the test can be uncomfortable.

This is usually given injection through a cannula in your hand.

The sedative causes drowsiness and also causes amnesia, but isn't a general anaesthetic.

The test takes 20 minutes or so to perform.

If you have sedation, you may feel sleepy for up to 24 hours.

You mustn't drive, operate any machinery or sign documents during this time and you should also be accompanied.

You may feel ‘gassy’ from the air, although this normally settles fairly quickly.

Fortunately, complications from flexible sigmoidoscopy are very rare.

Perforation (this is when a ‘hole’ occurs in the bowel wall) can occur in your colon during the procedure.

Bleeding is common, although not usually significant (rarely requires blood transfusion) and rarely reaction to the drugs given.

You will be monitored closely both during and after your test for these. 

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After Your Test

Once you have had your test, you will be monitored in a recovery area until well enough to get up.

You will be offered a drink and something to eat before going home.

If you have had sedation, you will need a responsible person to look after you for 24 hours.

You will be given information about after flexible sigmoidoscopy care and what to do if you have a problem.

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