Mrs Sara Badvie

MB BS (Hons) BSc (Hons) MS FRCS (Gen.Surg)
Female Colorectal & General Surgeon in London
Colorectal Clinical Lead, London Surgical Skills Programme, Imperial College
Covid-19 recovery: private outpatient appointments are now available as normal at all my locations – please click on the booking button. Thank you for your understanding whilst I was working at the Nightingale Hospital and supporting the NHS.

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  • What does this mean?
  • What is a colonoscopy?
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy

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Flexible sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the rectum and left side of the bowel. It is performed using a long, thin flexible tube with a camera at the tip, which projects an image onto a television screen. The tube is passed through the anus and can examine the bowel wall. Any abnormality will be seen and biopsies (tissue samples) can be taken. Polyps (tissue overgrowths) may also be removed.

Is it painful?

The test can be uncomfortable as a small amount of gas is passed through the tube and used to open the bowel wall. This, coupled with the passing of the camera, may lead to a sensation of stretch and abdominal bloating, but is not painful. As the test is limited to the left side of the bowel, it is a shorter procedure than a full colonoscopy and causes less stretch, and so is not usually performed under intravenous medication. However, sedative medication to make you drowsy can be provided on request, if preferred.

If a sedative is given, you must be collected after the test by a responsible adult, who should then stay with you overnight. You should not drive, operate machinery, drink alcohol or return to work until 24 hours have passed following the sedation.

Do I need to stay overnight?

The test is usually performed as a day procedure, and you will be able to go home the same day.

Do I need to prepare my bowel before the test?

Unlike a colonoscopy, full bowel preparation is not usually required for a flexible sigmoidoscopy. After you have arrived in the endoscopy department on the day of the test, you will be given an enema to empty the lower bowel, and this is usually sufficient.

What happens after the test?

When you have recovered from the sedative medication, are fully alert and have passed all our post-procedure checks later that day, you will be discharged home. If you have chosen not to have sedation, you will be discharged home soon after the test. You and your GP will receive a copy of the flexible sigmoidoscopy report, and the subsequent management will be tailored to your individual case.