Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Learn About This Procedure

A flexible sigmoidoscopy looks inside the rectum and large intestine, part of your colon. We do this using a flexible scope with a tiny camera on the end. You may need this procedure so we can:

  • Get tissue samples for testing
  • Find the cause of rectal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, lower abdominal pain or inflammation
  • See and remove polyps (small growths than can turn cancerous)
  • See how you respond to inflammatory bowel disease treatment 
  • Look for colorectal cancer

No matter why you need this procedure, you've come to the right place. UVA Health has a high level of expertise when it comes to colon health. Learn more.

The Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Procedure

Sedation for Comfort 

Your doctor may sedate you to decrease discomfort. 

This procedure may cause:

  • Cramping
  • Muscle spasms
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Urge to move your bowels

After the procedure, gas pains and cramping may occur. They'll go away once you pass gas.

The Procedure: What to Expect

You'll lay either on:

  • Your left side with knees bent and drawn up toward your chest
  • Your back with your feet in stirrups
  • On a special table

The doctor will gently insert a lubricated sigmoidoscope into your rectum and into your colon. We'll inject air into the colon to widen the passage and make it easier to see.

As the scope moves along, the doctor will watch for any abnormalities and may remove tissue samples or polyps. 

Cause for Concern

After arriving home, contact your doctor if you experience:

  • Bleeding from your rectum
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Hard, swollen abdomen
  • Signs of infection, including fever or chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas or stool
  • Chest pain or trouble breathing

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.