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Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Information for Patients


WHY IS A SIGMOIDOSCOPY PERFORMED?

This is a test which looks at the lining of the bowel and enables the surgeon to rule out serious conditions such as polyps, tumours or inflammatory bowel disease. Polyps (small benign growths) can be removed and biopsies can be taken. It does not examine as much of the bowel as colonoscopy but it is an appropriate test for certain bowel conditions in some patients. It is often used to examine the bowel in combination with a CT (computed tomography) examination, particularly in patients with diverticular disease.

WHAT PREPARATION IS REQUIRED FOR THIS TEST?

There is little preparation needed for flexible sigmoidoscopy, though it is advisable to have a low fibre diet the day before. Please refer to this pdf (click here) for guidance on which foods are low in fibre. It is not necessary to take a strong laxative to clear the bowel before this test but you will be asked to arrive about an hour before your test so that you can be given an enema (medication inserted by a nurse up into the rectum) to clear the lower part of your bowel

WHat HAPPENS DURING THE TEST?

You will be asked to lie on your side and a flexible, narrow tube containing a camera and light source is passed into the bowel through the anus. This allows the operator to view the lining of the bowel on a screen. The test usually lasts about 15 minutes. It is usually performed without sedation, though this can be given if needed. Please talk to your surgeon before the test if you feel you may need sedation.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE TEST?

The surgeon will normally discuss the results with you immediately after the test is performed. Biopsy results will usually take a couple of weeks to come through.

You may feel a little uncomfortable due to trapped wind for a few hours after the test, but as long as you have not been given sedation you can resume your normal activities, including driving, straight away. If you have had sedation you must not drive, operate machinery or sign important documents and it is advisable to have someone to stay with you the night after the test.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THIS TEST?

This is a very routine test. The most important but rare complication is that of perforation. This is when the instrument makes a hole in the bowel wall. It occurs in around 1:5000 flexible sigmoidoscopies. This is potentially serious and often needs an operation.