Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Information for patients from the Trust's Endoscopy Units

This information is for patients who are having an examination of the lower part of their bowel known as a flexible sigmoidoscopy. It explains what is involved and any significant risks that there may be.

If you do not attend your appointment without telling the Endoscopy Unit in advance you may be removed from the waiting list.

Students and trainees, supervised by qualified staff may be involved in your care. If you do not want a student to be present, please tell the endoscopist or nurse in charge.

The time stated is your booking in time not your procedure time, so please tell those coming to hospital with you that this is not your procedure time. The test itself takes 10 to 20 minutes, and may take longer if any polyps (projections of tissue rather like warts) are removed. Normally you will be able to go home immediately after your procedure, unless you have a sedative injection in which case you will need to stay in hospital for about 45 to 60 minutes. Occasionally, if there are emergency or very complex cases, the start of your test may be delayed and you may be in hospital for up to four hours.

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Diagram highlighting the large colon / bowel and rectum

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination, which allows the endoscopist to look directly at the lining of the lower part of your bowel using a sigmoidoscope. This is a flexible tube about the thickness of a woman’s index finger.

Sometimes a sample of the lining of the bowel (a biopsy) is taken for laboratory examination. If polyps are found they can be removed during the examination.

How do I prepare for my examination?

What happens when I arrive at the hospital?

What does the examination involve?

What happens after my examination?

Going home

If you have had sedation:

 If you did not have sedation the above restrictions do not apply to you.

Are there any significant risks?

This test is very safe, but there are some risks linked to this procedure.

Please talk to your endoscopist before your examination if you have any worries about these risks.

Are there alternatives to a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Yes, there is a CT pneumocolon and a barium enema. They both need the same kind of bowel preparation as a flexible sigmoidoscopy but they do not allow the removal of polyps or the taking of biopsies. This means that you would probably need a flexible sigmoidoscopy anyway.

Any further questions?

Please phone the Endoscopy Unit. The units are open Monday to Sunday 8am to 6pm.

If you have any questions between 6pm and 8am Monday to Sunday then contact the Emergency Department on:

A short film outlining what patients can expect when coming to hospital for an endoscopy is available on the East Kent Hospitals web site.

Our units are regularly inspected and audited; please ask if you want any information about our performance standards. You can also visit the Care Opinion web site.