The Comprehensive Guide to Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Understanding the Procedure, Preparation, and Recovery

Medical advancements have revolutionised the way we diagnose and treat various health conditions. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is one such procedure that plays a vital role in identifying and preventing colorectal diseases. In this article, we will explore what flexible sigmoidoscopy is, its importance, how it differs from a colonoscopy, the preparation process, and what to expect during recovery. Understanding this essential procedure can empower individuals to take control of their health and make informed decisions about their well-being.

What is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to examine the lower part of the large intestine, specifically the rectum and sigmoid colon. The procedure involves using a flexible, thin tube called a sigmoidoscope, which is equipped with a camera and a light source, to visualise the interior of the colon. This allows our colorectal experts to identify any abnormalities or signs of disease, such as polyps or inflammation, in the lower part of the colon.

Why Would You Need to Have a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

There are various reasons why a healthcare professional may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy, including:

  • Screening for colorectal cancer: Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an effective tool for detecting colorectal cancer in its early stages, allowing for timely treatment and improved outcomes.
  • Investigation of gastrointestinal symptoms: If a patient experiences unexplained rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, or abdominal pain, a flexible sigmoidoscopy can help identify the underlying cause.
  • Detection and removal of polyps: During the procedure, polyps, which are abnormal tissue growths that can develop into cancer, can be identified and removed, reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Monitoring and management of chronic conditions: For individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, flexible sigmoidoscopy may be used to assess the extent and severity of inflammation and monitor disease progression.

How Do You Prepare for the Procedure?

Proper preparation is crucial to ensure a successful and accurate flexible sigmoidoscopy. Here are some common steps involved in the preparation process:

  • Bowel preparation: Typically, patients are required to follow a specific diet and take laxatives or enemas to cleanse the colon thoroughly. This ensures that the sigmoidoscope can provide a clear view of the colon’s lining.
  • Fasting: Patients may need to refrain from eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure to avoid interference with the visualization.

How is it Different from a Colonoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are both procedures used to examine the colon, but they have some key differences:

  • Scope length: Flexible sigmoidoscopy focuses on the lower part of the colon (sigmoid colon and rectum), while colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon, from the rectum to the cecum.
  • Bowel preparation: The bowel preparation required for flexible sigmoidoscopy is generally less extensive compared to colonoscopy, as it only covers a shorter segment of the colon.
  • Sedation: Flexible sigmoidoscopy is often performed without sedation, or minimal sedation may be used, whereas colonoscopy is usually conducted under sedation to ensure patient comfort.

Is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Painful?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is generally well-tolerated and considered less uncomfortable than a colonoscopy due to the shorter scope length. Most patients experience minor discomfort, cramping, or pressure as the scope is advanced through the colon. If the procedure becomes painful, the patient can communicate with the healthcare team, who may adjust or halt the procedure if needed.

What is Recovery Like?

Recovery from a flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually swift and straightforward. Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Post-procedure care: Patients may experience slight bloating or gas immediately after the procedure. This is temporary and should resolve on its own. Most patients are able are able to leave the clinic and drive away immediately due to patients not normaily requiring sedution during the procedure.
  • Normal activities: In most cases, patients can resume their normal activities on the same day after the procedure. However, it is advisable to avoid strenuous activities for a short period, as the body may need time to recover fully.
  • Side effects: Some patients may experience mild rectal bleeding or minimal discomfort following the removal of small polyps. These effects are generally short-lived and resolve quickly.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a valuable medical procedure that aids in the early detection, prevention, and management of colorectal diseases. By understanding the importance of this examination, individuals can prioritize their colorectal health and work alongside healthcare professionals to ensure their well-being. Proper preparation, clear communication with ourmedical team, and adherence to post-procedure guidelines contribute to a smooth and successful flexible sigmoidoscopy experience, empowering patients to take charge of their digestive health and overall wellness. Remember, regular screenings can save lives, making it crucial to schedule recommended examinations and stay proactive about colorectal health.

If you are concerned about any pain or discomfort you may have, our team will be more than happy to help and investigate your symptoms further. Please email us at or enquire online to learn more.