What is a sigmoidoscopy / flexible sigmoidoscopy
There are two types of sigmoidoscopes that can be used. The most commonly used is a flexible sigmoidoscopy that allows full access to the sigmoid colon due to its flexibility. It allows the consultant to guide the camera through the sigmoid colon whilst being able to turn as they go. A flexible sigmoidoscope gives doctors a better view of the lower colon and usually makes the examination more comfortable.
A rigid sigmoidoscope or anoscope, has generally been replaced by the flexible version and is now used less often. It can be used for certain colorectal surgical procedures, such as for haemorrhoid banding. However, it is not useful for examining the entire sigmoid colon as it does not have the ability to manoeuvre as far into the colon as the flexible sigmoidoscope.
What is a sigmoidoscopy used for?
A sigmoidoscopy is used to investigate causes of bleeding or pain from the back passage. Your consultant may also suggest this test if you have various other bowel related symptoms. A sigmoidoscopy can also look for evidence of cancer or inflammation of the rectum and lower colon. Sigmoidoscopy can also be used to remove polyps and take samples of tissue (biopsy) for analysis. This is performed by passing a thin grabbing instrument through the sigmoidoscope.
Preparing for a sigmoidoscopy
For your consultant to get the clearest view, your rectum and lower colon need to be empty of faeces (stools or motions). You should be given detailed instructions on how to clear your bowel prior to undergoing a sigmoidoscopy.
A sigmoidoscopy takes just a few minutes. Usually you do not need an anaesthetic or sedation and wear a hospital gown so that the lower half of your body is exposed. You will be asked to lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest.
The consultant will gently insert a gloved and lubricated finger (or fingers) into the rectum to check for blockage and to widen the anus. Then the sigmoidoscope will be inserted and gently pushed further into the rectum and colon. Air is gently pumped through the sigmoidoscope to help viewing. This can cause you to feel bloated and uncomfortable, and give you an urge to defecate (‘move your bowels’). As the sigmoidoscope is slowly removed, the lining of the bowel is carefully examined. During the procedure a small sample (biopsy) of the bowel lining may be taken during the procedure. The sample is then sent on to the laboratory to be looked at under the microscope. It may also be tested for various conditions that can affect the bowel.
Sigmoidoscopy side-effects or complications
Most sigmoidoscopies are done without any problem. Some people have crampy pains and excess wind after the procedure.
Occasionally, the sigmoidoscope causes some damage to the rectum or colon. This may cause bleeding, infection and, rarely, perforation of the colon. If any of the following occur within 48 hours after a sigmoidoscopy, consult a doctor immediately:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody bowel movements or rectal bleeding
At the GI Unit both Mr Romi Navaratnam and Mr Deepak Suri offer a fully include package price for a flexible sigmoidoscopy. Both consultants are vastly experienced and able to answer any questions you may have about the procedure. Our specialist team are available Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm and on Saturday from 9am – 1pm.
Our gastrointestinal specialists team have a dedicated and caring approach and will seek to find you the earliest appointment possible with the correct specialist for your needs.
As this procedure is lead by a Consultant you don’t need a referral from your GP. You can simply refer yourself and book an appointment. Please note we do not accept GP referrals. If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer for authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP. If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use. Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.
Call us on 020 7078 3802 or email us at [email protected]