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Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

What is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy allows direct examination of the large bowel, visualising about 30% of the colon. The sigmoid colon is cleansed with an enema administered in the department shortly before the procedure. If a cancer or polyps are identified a colonoscopy will be performed on another occasion to exclude abnormalities of the unexamined bowel; polyps will usually be removed at the time of the second procedure.

What can I expect?

In the examination room you will be asked to lie on your left side on the table, your consultant will insert a short, lit tube into your rectum and slowly guide this through to the first part of your colon. The tube is called a sigmoidoscope. The scope transmits an image of the inside of the rectum and colon, so that your consultant can carefully examine the lining of these organs. The scope also blows carbon dioxide into these organs, which inflates them and helps the consultant to see better.

If anything unusual is seen in the rectum or colon, such as a polyp or inflamed tissue, the consultant may remove a piece of it using instruments inserted into the scope. The consultant will send that piece of tissue to the lab for testing.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy takes 10 to 20 minutes. During the procedure, you might feel pressure and slight cramping in the lower abdomen, but as the carbon dioxide is removed you will feel better.

Are there any risks?

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is a very safe examination, but very rarely problems can occur. The two most important are:

Perforation – this is a tear in the lining of the colon, which can happen during the test. It may not need treating at all, but it may need repairing with surgery, in which case you would need to stay in hospital.

Bleeding – minor bleeding is of no concern. Substantial bleeding can occur up to 10 days after removal of polyps, but is rare.

If you are concerned please contact your GP, the Endoscopy Centre or your local Accident and Emergency department.

After the Test?

If you have sedation, you will need to rest until you are fully awake which can take up to 2 hours. If you have not had sedation you can leave as soon as you feel ready, and can have a normal day. You may eat and drink when you feel like it. You may feel a little bloated and windy, but this usually settles quite quickly.

Going Home?

If you have had a sedative injection as a part of the test it is essential that someone collects you to take you home. Once home, it is important to rest quietly for the remainder of the day. Sedation lasts longer than you think.

For 24 hours after your test you should not:

- drive a car

- operate machinery

- drink alcohol

The effects of the test and sedation should have worn off by the next day, when most patients are able to resume normal activities.