Potential Colonoscopy Risks

Colonoscopy is generally a very safe screening test uses to detect and prevent colorectal cancers. Even though risks and complications are possible although rare, it is not a valid reason to avoid getting the test done. 

Studies have shown that the average risk of getting colorectal cancer is approximately 1 in 24 women and 1 in 22 men. One of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States is from colorectal cancers – which is why it is important to carry out a colonoscopy.

The risk of complications during routine colonoscopy is very low (approximately 0.35%). However, during a colonoscopy where a polyp is removed, complication risks are higher – even though they are rare. A few rare complications that occur during a colonoscopy are infection, bleeding, and perforation.

In this post, we will discuss the importance of getting a colonoscopy as well as the risks involved. It is important to remember that these risks are very rare and should not deter you from getting tested.

A colonoscopy will save your life as it will help you in detecting and prevention colorectal cancer. Let's get right to it, shall we?


When You Need a Colonoscopy

 A colonoscopy is a screening test used to detect cancer of the colon and rectum, and it has proven to help in early detection and prevention. Even though this test is needed, people are known to carry out this test too often due to fear.

Most people need to get a colonoscopy just once in a decade, only a few people who have serious polyps may need to be tested regularly. For most people, the screening should start at age 50. If there are no cancer or adenomas found, your next screening should be in 10 years.

Risks Involved in Colonoscopy Screening

The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy reported that serious problems occur in approximately 2.8% of every 1,000 colonoscopy procedures carried out on people with average risks. Highlighted below are the different risks associated with getting a colonoscopy.

Risk of Intestinal Perforations

Intestinal perforations are tears in the intestine or rectum wall. Perforations can occur accidentally during the procedure and they are more likely to occur when polyps are removed.

The risk of perforation decreases in a colonoscopy where no polyps were removed. Large tears are treated through surgery to close the tear. On the other hand, smaller tests may not need surgery but will be treated with antibiotics, bowel rest, and constant watching.

Bleeding Risks

One in every thousand colonoscopy patient experiences bleeding. This bleeding can be treated during the screening and in other cases, the bleeding wills stop on its own.

There is a 30% chance that when a polyp is removed during endoscopy, bleeding will occur. This bleeding is nothing to be worried about as it occurs 2 days after the procedure and goes away on its own. If it becomes severe and the bleeding is heavy, contact your doctor as treatment will be required.

Postpolypectomy Syndrome

This syndrome occurs when there is a burn on the bowel wall during the removal of a polyp. Most patients develop fever, abdominal pain and increased white blood cell count after the procedure as a reaction to polypectomy.

The risk of getting post polypectomy syndrome after a colonoscopy procedure during which a polypectomy was carried out is relatively low. Treatment for this syndrome rarely requires surgery as it can be treated with fluids, antibiotics, and rest.

Reaction to Anesthetic Medications

Anesthesia is given to patients during a colonoscopy exam to make them more comfortable. However, there are risks involved when anesthetic medications are given to patients such as allergic reactions and respiratory issues.

There is a relatively small risk or respiratory issues from anesthetic medications during a colonoscopy exam. Other anesthetic risks include injection site reaction, vomiting low blood pressure, and nausea.

Infection Risks

Getting an infection after a colonoscopy is very uncommon. However, an infection can be transmitted from one patient to another if and when the endoscope is not properly cleaning and sterilized between screenings. The risk of infection happen is extremely low. The bacterial infections that occur after colonoscopy are Klebsiella and E. coli.

Risks for Older Adults

Because colon cancer grows slowly, people with average risk or those older than 75 are not recommended to have colonoscopies. This is only valid if they have done the screening once during the last decade. There is a high likelihood of older adults to experience complications or even die after this procedure than younger adults.

Bowel prep can pose an issue for older adults as electrolyte imbalance or dehydration might occur. Some especially those with cognitive heart failure may react to the prep solutions which will cause further complications. Because of the health issues and conditions of older adults, they have an increased risk of lung or heart complications or issues weeks after the colonoscopy exam.

Post-procedure Complications

You must watch what you eat after the exam in order not to irritate the colon. You should also avoid dehydration at all costs. Post-Procedure complications include:

  • Introduction of air into the colon during the test may result in you feeling gassy and bloated
  • Blood coming out during excretion or from your rectum
  • Abdominal pain or light cramps
  • Nausea because of the anesthetic medication
  • Irritation of the rectum caused by the bowel prep or colonoscopy procedure

To Wrap It Up

If you have symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, chills, fever, severe bleeding, and rapid heart rate days after the colonoscopy procedure, call your doctor. There are other types of tests you can do for colon and rectal cancers and they include stool DNA, fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, CT colonography, and double-contrast barium enema.

It is important to remember that colonoscopies are highly effective and the risks of complication, although possible are incredibly low. As stated earlier, the risks involved should not serve as a deterrent for you to take this test. Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths and with a colonoscopy, you can detect as well as prevent it. 

M.D. Endoscopy

As the industry leader of pre-owned, refurbished and used endoscopy equipment, M.D. Endoscopy, Inc. offers one of the largest inventories of endoscopes in the world. We offer products from all major manufacturers including but not limited to Olympus, Pentax and Fujinon with the only and most comprehensive 24-month warranty in the industry.

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