Colonoscopy is a medical procedure employed to diagnose problems associated with the colon and rectum. This article throws light on the possible colonoscopy complications.
As aforesaid, colonoscopy is a medical procedure to screen the colon, and it is done through an endoscopic examination thus, the name. In this procedure, a flexible scope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. This scope is fitted with a miniature camera which allows doctors to have a visual study of any irregularities in the large intestine. Mostly, this procedure is performed to diagnose and detect early signs and stages of colon cancer. It is also used by doctors to detect any abnormal changes in bowel habits, and symptoms such as abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss. According to studies, the risks associated with routine colonoscopy happen to be as low as 0.35%. However, some cases which involve the removal of polyps (tissue bulging from the surface of an organ) or taking tissue samples for biopsy, may have a higher risk, about 2.3%.
Risks Associated With Colonoscopy
Generally the risks of this procedure may include perforation, bleeding, anesthetic medications side effects, postpolypectomy syndrome, infection, and ruptured spleen. The following briefs you on each of these risks.
This is perhaps the most severe of all colonoscopy complications. People over 60 are known to be more susceptible to develop this risk. This is basically a tear or a hole in the intestine. This risk, however, is rare, and it occurs due to a puncture inflicted on the colon wall by a medical instrument. Perforation may also occur if the air that is introduced into the colon results in excessive distension of the colon walls because of the pressure from within. Severe cases of perforation have surgery as an available treatment, while, cases which are mild can be treated with the help of antibiotics, careful monitoring, and bowel rest.
Out of all colonoscopy dangers, this one may have its occurrence in about 1 out of every 1000 cases. If the colonoscopy involves removal of a polyp from the colon, or taking tissue samples for biopsy, then it may be followed by bleeding. However, in some patients, this complication may occur 2 days to a week later. In most cases, the bleeding resolves on its own, however, medical intervention is required if the case is severe.
Side Effects from Anesthetic Medications
Often, patients are given sedatives during the procedure, in order to make them more comfortable. Here, the patient may be awake, but he would not be able to recall much about the procedure performed on him. However, such medications could trigger allergic reaction and/or respiratory problems. Nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure and reaction at the injection side are some of the other rare but possible risks which can occur due to the administration of such kinds of medications.
During a colonoscopy, when polyps are removed from the colon, it is known as polypectomy. This procedure harbors a risk of giving rise to what is known as postpolypectomy syndrome; a group of symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and an elevated white blood cell count. These usually occur a few days or weeks after the procedure. This complication occurs when the bowel wall having the polyp, sustains a transmural burn injury.
Ruptured Spleen, and Infection
A ruptured spleen is an injured spleen, which, without immediate medical treatment, may cause life-threatening internal bleeding. Fortunately, this problem is rarely caused by colonoscopy. Occurrence of symptoms such as sudden and severe abdominal pain, abnormal increase in white blood cells, and acute anemia post the procedure of colonoscopy, warrants an immediate CT scan of the abdomen to rule out the condition of spleen rupture.
Unsterilized medical instruments or an unsterilized setting may lead to infection during colonoscopy. However, its occurrence is very rare as doctors take adequate preventive measures.
The complications mentioned above, could be intimidating. However, as we can infer from the discussion, most of these rarely occur during a colonoscopy. And to conclude, according to what most medical experts have observed, all such complications normally affect 1 in 1000 people when the procedure does not involve polyp removal or biopsies. Otherwise, the figure goes up to as much as 7 in 1000.