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painful sigmoidoscopy

Had Sigmoidoscopy yesterday and would need to be dragged kicking and screaming before having another! The hospital staff were lovely, I was given an enema before the doctor came to speak to me about what he was about to do. He was very nice and reassuring so up to then, all was going well. Then I was taken to the treatment room where I was asked to lie on my left side on a bed which had sides on (to prevent escape ha ha) and the procedure started. Boy oh boy, the pain I experienced was terrible cramping all over my abdomen like I had never experienced before (even child birth wasn't as bad as this). The nurses kept reassuring me and asking me to take deep slow breaths but this did not help and eventually having been unable to cope with it anymore, the doctor agreed to stop but did take two biopsies. However, because it was too painful for me to allow him to go any further, he said he was 20cm short of where he wanted to see. Now heres the question. Why on earth don't they just put the patient under total sedation? This way no pain is caused to them, the doctor can look at the area he needs to see and all in all, every one happy. It seems a waste of time to me to put people through such agony when there is a simple solution. The doctor is unable to perform a full examination because it is too painful for the patient so its not cost effective, its cruel and its a waste of everyones time!

186 Replies

  • Guest Guest

    Sedation doesnt stop the pain it just makes you too out of it to care. Usually a Sigmoidoscopy is not painful in the slightest smile

    • katherine02348 katherine02348 Guest

      I had a flexi sig on the NHS UK yesterday. Have had 3 kids, one with no pain releif at all as too fast and many operations. I would say that it is quite painful. With me they went to about 70 cms which I think is quite far and I was on the table for about 30 mins. I used gas and air which enabled me to cope. I think other people not used to pain would have cried out with pain. I had a polyp removed and this in itself does not hurt. I was commended for being brave. When I told the nurse before about some of the posts here she was not surprised, which alarmed me! She said it is the air pressure which hurts. 30 hours on I still have some pain. I could not fault my NHS hospital in Newcastle as I was taken into a ward, given tea and a sandwich and not allowed to leave till I felt Ok ish. I was there 3 hours. The pain is like IBS and quite bad at the moment. So if a nurse whose job it is to only to faciliate sigmoidocospies is not surprised at the posts here talking about excruicating pain, I think it is very painful for some people. The pain is like pressure and sharp, too.

    • sunbr sunbr Guest

      I had a flexible sigmoidoscopy earlier this week. Having come across this page while looking for more information about it, I was incredibly nervous going to the hospital as I was expecting it to be very painful. It wasn't at all, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I was sedated and fairly oblivious to it. I wanted to share this so that anyone else who stumbles across this page knows that it's not guaranteed to be painful!

    • a82019 a82019 sunbr

      Lucky you! I had this procedure this morning and asked for sedation, which was refused. I was told categorically it wasn't painful, which the majority wasn't. However it was hellishly uncomfortable and I am now in a lot of discomfort/mild pain.

    • joe10258 joe10258 a82019

      I had a sigmoidoscopy in 2000, and will NEVER have another or a colonoscopy.  Clearly barbaric.  I have no family history and no symptoms, so I will take my chances.  I am not only avoiding the torture, but the risks of perforation, dirty colonoscopes (as the scopes cannot be disinfected reliably, so it is risk equal to any unprotected anal penetration by a device that is used repeatedly among many people), memory issues related to medications used, rupture of the spleen (from looping), and the list goes on.  Since the procedures are done on an outpatient basis, and often the problems are discovered after the patients are discharged home, they are NEVER linked to the procedure.  The actual "untoward events" are actually far higher that the numbers claimed.  When propofol for total sedation is used, the doctors go VERY fast to complete more procedures which naturally increases the risk of perforation and splenic avulsons.

  • Guest Guest

    I have had this same experience - twice now. In ten years I'd hoped that things might have improved. The first time I was given an anaesthetic and the procedure was completed. Last week I could only have gas and air and despite being almost out of it on a high I could not stop screaming! I've never experienced pain like this in any other way.

    Anyone who thinks you could possibly be so out of it you don't care has obviously not experienced this pain.

    I feel really angry about it and may not return for the barium enema I'm told I must have now since they could not examine the full length required. It is absolutely disgraceful to treat people this way - nothing short of torture!

  • Guest Guest

    I went for a flexible sigmoidoscopy yesterday - it was at short notice ( I was offered a late cancellation). I hadn't time to receive the information about it so had looked up several articles online - all describing discomfort & cramps- but unfortunately I hadn't found this site.

    The nursing staff were lovely; the procedure worse than I'd ever imagined. I've had 4 children & managed with gas & air & breathing. I couldn't manage this at all.

    I think at the beginning of the procedure it was just very uncomfortable as expected but it then became very painful.

    When the scope wouldn't get round 1 of the corners ( though she didn't explain that at the time) she got me to move from my left side to right side & onto my back & then back onto my side and then they asked me to rate the pain on a scale of 1-10 (about 9 I reckoned - I really wasn't with it by then); took some of the air out (reducing the pain to about 6); said I was tachycardic and then I guess decided to give up. I had to stay in the recovery ward for a couple of hours - severe stomachpains & very nauseous. Finally got home & had to lie down for the rest of the day. Today I still feel unwell & am seriously concerned about the barium enema scheduled for 3 weeks time as all the medical staff told me that it would be worse than the flexible sigmoidoscopy.

    I think I would have felt the pain/feeling so ill was worthwhile if they'd managed to complete the procedure but to go through all of that & then only have a limited procedure carried out with the warning that you might have to come back again isn't good sad .

    The doctor also made me feel as though I was at fault in some way -I think her words afterwards were something on the lines that she'd been doing this for x years & this was the first time she'd only been able to do a limited procedure. I asked if sedation might have helped but she said not necessarily - so if they do the procedure again what are they going to give me?

  • Jane1962 Jane1962

    Hi Everyone,

    I had one after having 2 colonoscopies, for which I had sedation and didn't feel much pain at all, but these where performed at a different hospital. When I moved I had to go to a different hospital and when I got the appointment I thought it was funny that I didn't have to have any stuff beforehand to empty my bowel like before and when I got to the hospital I found it was for a flexible sigmoidascope. the staff didn't even give me an enema and the pain was dreadful - had a fan on me as I kept getting panicy and afterwards I felt so bloated and could have f***ed and blown myself home on the wind!!! Thankfully I was discharged and have not had to had anything else done.

    I think they should give some form of pain relief as not everyone is the same and this can be a very painful experience and also not a pleasant thing to go see a dr about in the first place.

    Hope they do something about it soon for all you sufferers out there.


    • Dor Dor Jane1962

      Nothing seems to have improved as I had the nightmare of having a flexible sigmoidoscopy yesterday and it was excrutiatingly painful.  The staff were busy and barely 10 minutes following the procedure and a cup of tea and toast I was pushed to get dressed and leave although I was still in extreme pain.  I got dressed in the loo and let go of masses of wind but also had diarrhoea.  The nurse came over 3 times while I was in the loo to ask what I was doing and shouted that I had

      diarrhoea.  "Are you dressed you"? she shouted through the door and I said yes but was so upset as the pain was awful.  I had to finish my cup of tea in the waiting room before I left as they were so busy and did not care about how I was.  I may need more investigations but I know a barium enema is not so painful, just messy and would have that anytime over this. 

  • vali1 vali1

    I havehad a flexible sigmoidoscopy 2 days ago, in an NHS hospital. The main reason to have it was to examine my haemorrhoids. I had no sedation however when the surgeon saw my prolapsed haemorrhoids, he applied an anaesthetic gel. The procedure itself was more painful than I had anticipated. The air they used to inflate my colon and the liquid they used at some point to rinse it created a tremendous pressure that I’ve felt in my lower abdomen, it brought me into tears at some point. The unpleasant experience was not improved by some inappropriate and idiotic comments made by a second man who was sitting in the procedure room with no apparent purpose other than to chat to the surgeon who was carrying out the procedure. At some point the man said to the surgeon “you look like having too much fun there... this looks like some kind of prostitution”. I didn’t hear any reply to those comments. The nurse was decent and encouraged me to breathe deeply and stay relaxed.

    Although I expected to have my haemorrhoids banded during the procedure, I didn’t notice the surgeon doing any of that. Everyone was preparing to leave behaving in the typical mood one has in the end of a working day. As I was pulled out of the procedure room in the trolley I’ve asked the nurse if it was normal to still feel abdominal pressure and pain. She answered affirmatively and said that I needed to “pass wind”. The next moment she left me in the hands of a man who continued to roll me to the changing room and then he left hesitantly after giving me an uncertain look. With my colon filled with the air and the liquid that was introduced during the procedure, I went to the toilet and did what the nurse had advised me to do. Once I had that done, I felt much better. Some minutes later a nurse brought me some papers with the sigmoidoscopy results and asked me to call a phone number to arrange an appointment. Looking at the results I was surprised to read: “Intermittent bleeding and fourth degree haemorrhoids noted. Too swollen and painful for banding.” This explained why the surgeon ended the procedure without any haemorrhoid treatment, which was the main point of the sigmoidoscopy.

    The most pain for me though was only about to begin, 15-20 minutes after the procedure when the local anaesthetic faded away. Seemingly the surgeon couldn’t avoid hurting my prolapsed haemorrhoids while operating the device during the sigmoidoscopy. The stingy pain persists to the present moment as I type this, two days after the procedure. Last night I mostly didn’t sleep because of the pain.

    Yesterday I’ve called for the next appointment which unfortunately couldn’t have been arranged sooner than mid March that’s in a month and a half time. I am frustrated to have to wait so long and right now in a great deal of pain. I also have a job interview to attend in a week and I feel anxious not to miss it due to my pain, I can hardly walk right now.

    If you have to do a sigmoidoscopy, I wish you the best of luck. It will be rather unpleasant but you’ll be fine immediately afterwards. If you are in a similar with me unlucky position to need haemorrhoids treatment, then I deeply empathise with you and I wish you get the right treatment for you and get the best results in the end.

  • NHS Survivor NHS Survivor


    Anybody who says this procedure is just uncomfortable, clearly hs never had one done.

    I have had two, the first one around 3 years ago, was so painful that I literally screamed for him to stop, the doctor kept saying he knows its not nice, but he just had to get around the top bend in my colon and needed more air. By tis point I was digging my fingernails so hard into the poor nurses hand and sweat ws running down my face and chest, I was at the point of complete collapse, in fact I would go so far as saying that for anybody who had a heart condition, this was enough to cause them to have a heart attack.

    There is no exaggeration here, it is the worst pain I have ever endured and cannot imagine why patients are not put out for this procedure,

    ~Worst of all last year My GP said I had to have another one done as conditon getting worse, I told her NO but she assured me that this time it wouldnt be so bad as only the very lower portion would need air to expand it. WELL IT WAS HELL FOR THE SECOND TIME... and the worse thing was IT WAS THE SAME Massocistic doctor performing it.... again he made me feel I was a baby, and this time I shouted to him, had he had one of these procedures performed, he said no.. and I told him he then didnt have a clue.

    I still have the same problens but I would NEVER EVER GO THROUGH THIS PROCEURE AGAIN. and pity anybody who everhas to....

    • andrea7412 andrea7412 NHS Survivor

      "Anybody who says this procedure is just uncomfortable, clearly hs never had one done."

      This is very dishonest to say. How can you dismiss the experience of others so easily and claim to be the only one who deserves to be believed? You are among the few who find this test painful. Do not generalize your own experience. 

  • sarebear35 sarebear35

    I had this done yesterday under sedation......what can I say it was very very painful.....because I was sedated I did not really know what was happening but I can tell you now I felt the pain...on a scale of 1-10 I would say it is 8-9. Today my insides feel very sore and achy... I am not sure whether this is normal or not has any one else had symptoms the next day?

  • helen202 helen202

    Ok, it really isn't that bad. I had a rigid sig at my doctors which was much more uncomfortable that the flexi sig. After reading these posts, I was concerned about the procedure as I am a total wimp when it comes to anything. It is standard to be given gas and air which is brilliant, this total relaxes you. It isn't great when they blow air in, but this is because it makes you want to go to the toilet, this passes and a few deep breathes on the gas and air and you are fine. It was over in 10 minutes, which sounds like a lot but it isn't when you are out of it on gas and air. I had two polyps removed and went home after a sandwich and a cup of tea afterwards. Seriously it really isn't painful, it just makes you have a real urge to go to the toilet, which passes. Personally having a blood test or injection is much worse.

    • Tootsie roll Tootsie roll helen202

      I had a ridgid sigmoidoscopy this am, and after reading all these posts, I was so scared. I didn't sleep all night and cried all morning. I have a low pain tolerance, and I was scared, but I also knew that I had to bite the bullet and go through with the procedure. Anyway, I was given nothing drug wise, and I was fortunate to have a gentle Dr. I layed on my left side, they inserted some spreader, (not comfortable) blew in some air, I concentrated on breathing, which really helped, and they inserted the scope, did their thing and there was only mild pain and cramping. I have had worse period cramps than this. It was a walk in the park, and I am the biggest wimp going. In 10-15 it was done and I was freaking out about nothing! I have endured a double contrast barium enema, and that was super painful. So please don't be afraid. Everyone has different experiences and they are not all bad

    • Dor Dor Tootsie roll

      Hi you were fortunate with a rigid sigmoidoscopy but it only goes into the rectum not further up like the flexible. The pain with the flexible comes with the bends in the colon further up and believe me it is excruciating! Sedation did nothing for me and gas and air was no option at my hospital, also I since found out that my condition of diverticulitis makes the procedure even more painful and would opt to be knocked out if I need a flexible sig or colonoscopy (also very painful) in future.

      I think you were really fortunate to get the rigid sigmoidoscopy.

    • NHS Survivor NHS Survivor Dor

      Hi, I didnt have a rigid one, I had the flexible one and it was hell.

      If you can find any hospital that will Knock you out as you call it for a signoidoscopy you will be lucky,  I havent heard of one that does this, at best in a very very few sedation may be given but anyone who has had this says it does not alleviate the pain.l


    • NHS Survivor NHS Survivor Dor

      Hi again,

      Nowhere in my post have I ever said I had a rigid sigmoidoscopy,  mine went around the bends and I never had gas and air or sedation,   I would NEVER HAVE ANOTEHR,  HAD TWO AND THEY WERE EQUALLY AS BAD....

      I think the only way one may get knocked out - is to have this done privately at around £2000 but even then I am not sure they actually knock you out as you call it.

    • Dor Dor NHS Survivor

      Hi I replied to someone called Tootsie roll about HER rigid sigmoidoscopy.NHS Survivor I am really sorry you had such a difficult and distressing time with the flexible one as I did. I live in Scotland and a friend is a scope nurse who advised that should I need another I can get it with a short acting aneasthetic which allows you to be unaware when the procedure is being done.  It is not advertised as everyone would want it. It is the only way I would let anyone near me with a scope! I think areas differ.

    • Dor Dor NHS Survivor

      It looks as if it well to Toostie Roll 5 hours ago.  There must be an error with the web page as there is nothing on a reply from me to you on this site except to say I had replied to the person named Tootsie roll..  I would not have replied to you as I did not see it on the page. I am sorry for the misunderstanding.  We have both had very painful procedures.

    • NHS Survivor NHS Survivor Tootsie roll

      I had to comment on your post as I would hate people to listen to your description as a walk in the park for these procedures.   If yous was, indeed you were one of the very FEW  lucky one. but for the majority of us, it is the worst  pain ever.

      Also I read that people are being offered SEDATION and Gas and Air,  Well I quizzed my GP after the first EXCRUTIATING one i had done as to could I get this done anywhere to be offered this and she said no, that the people carryhing out these procedures always claim they are a little uncomfortable for nothing more.

      Absolute Rubbish,   I had to endure a second one of these and was telling him to stop that I couldnt take any more,  I was dripping with sweat,  the nurse was holding my hand and my fingernails were digging in.   It reached a point when I demanded he STOP, and at that point he did.    If only these doctors  who carry out these things, actually had to experience it themselves,  I KNOW they would be more sympathetic.

      AFter the procedures,  I had to drive home,  was never warned of the terrible pain that came in spasms folllowing this, and 4 times I had to slam brakes on as was bent double,   I got home and my husband thought I had been in an accident as was bent over to try and help pain, the only relief I got was to bend and lie my chest flat on the kitchen table and stay in this position.  It took a long time before I could move properly again.

      Please.... anyone having to go through this, please believe that there are only a few who claim it was painless and just a bit uncomfortable,  but the majority of us would rather give birth to baby elephant than go through it again.

      I just wish someone had warned me.    I had to have a third done recently, but I refused,  I said no way.... and they did a CT colonoscopy, still with air, but was indeed 'a walk in the park' compared to the TORTURE I experience twice at the hands of the Sadist of a Dr. who preformed it.


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