Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

This webpage will give you information about a flexible sigmoidoscopy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of the left, lower part of the colon (large bowel) using a flexible telescope (see figure 1).

 Sometimes a polyp is the cause of the problem and the endoscopist may be able to remove it during the procedure.


Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Are there any alternatives to a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Other options include a colonoscopy, a barium enema (an x-ray test of the large bowel) or a CT colography (a scan of the large bowel).

What does the procedure involve?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy usually takes between fifteen and twenty minutes.

 The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope (endoscope) into the back passage. Air will be blown into your large bowel so that they have a clear view. The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. They will be able to perform biopsies and take photographs to help make the diagnosis.

What complications can happen?

  • Allergic reaction
  • Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
  • Infection
  • Making a hole in the colon
  • Bleeding
  • Incomplete procedure

How soon will I recover?

If you were given a sedative you will normally recover in about an hour. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.

A member of the team will tell you what was found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need. You should be able to go back to work the day after the flexible sigmoidoscopy.


A flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out if you have a problem with the lower part of your large bowel.


Author: Mr Jonathan Lund DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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