Bowel perforation is one of the risks associated with colonoscopy. Read on to know more about the same.
Colonoscopy has emerged as a common diagnostic procedure for evaluating the condition of the colon. This procedure involves the use of a colonoscope, a flexible tube fitted with a fiber optic camera. The colonoscope is passed through the entire colon, right from the rectum to the cecum. The camera send images that will be displayed in a monitor. The doctor will go through these images, for detecting colon abnormalities, if any. Colonoscopy is now a standard test for colorectal cancer screening. This diagnostic procedure is said to be highly effective and is associated with a very low risk levels. Perforation of colon during colonoscopy is one among the serious risks associated with this procedure.
As mentioned above, colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure with a very low risk level. According to statistics, the risk of serious complications of colonoscopy is around 0.35 %. In general, it is said that colonoscopy complications may develop in one among every 1700 cases. This risk increases significantly in those who are already having colon or rectal diseases and those who undergo procedures, like, polypectomy, during colonoscopy.
Serious complications of colonoscopy include perforated bowel, which is also the common one. Others include heavy bleeding and death, which occurs in rare cases. Even infection, reaction to anesthesia and postpolypectomy syndrome are among the complications of colonoscopy. Some people may develop inflammation of the bowel, due to the preparation for colonoscopy.
Bowel Perforation During Colonoscopy
As the name rightly suggests, perforated colon during colonoscopy indicates a perforation or puncture of the colon that happens during the procedure. Such punctures can be caused by the tools used for colonoscopy. In most cases, this complication is associated with polypectomy, wherein the polyps are removed from the colon, through cauterization. Even those with some existing disease of the colon (like, diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disorders), have an increased risk of developing punctures on the colon wall, during the procedure of colonoscopy. Another possible reason for a punctured colon during colonoscopy is the excessive distention caused by the air that has been introduced into the colon, during the procedure.
The size of the tear or puncture may not be the same for all. In case of large tears, surgery for perforated bowel is performed as an emergency measure. In some cases, the punctured part of the colon may be removed. Some patients may require a colostomy bag that has to be used after removal of the damaged portion of the colon. The use of this bag is mostly temporary, but, for some, it could be permanent. A minute tear may seal on its own, with sufficient bowel rest and medications. In some severe cases of bowel perforation during colonoscopy, death may follow. However, this is found to be very rare.
If the perforation is not detected during the procedure, the patient will develop symptoms that may worsen with time. Even though, a small amount of discomfort is normal after colonoscopy, in case of bowel perforation, this discomfort will increase with time. There will be no obvious symptoms after perforation, but, the patient will develop high fever, vomiting, dehydration, severe abdominal pain and nausea, as the condition worsens. In such cases, immediate medical attention is required to prevent further complications.
The above said is only a brief overview about perforated colon during colonoscopy. The risk of perforation is very low and is usually not counted as a medical malpractice. The person who is undergoing colonoscopy is supposed to have an understanding about the possible risks and so, it is inferred that he is willing to take that risk. This makes the doctor not liable for such complications. If the doctor fails to identify the perforation during colonoscopy and fails to treat the patient in time, then you may consult an experienced attorney, regarding the scope of liability (of the doctor). You may also discuss the various aspects of colonoscopy with your doctor, before you undergo the procedure.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.