Gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation and heart arrhythmias are dangers of colonoscopy in the elderly, according to Fox News. Dehydration due to the bowel preparation is another risk cited by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. False positives and overdiagnosis of cancer are additional concerns.
Although colonoscopy is a safe procedure with few complications, researchers estimate that the elderly are 28 percent more likely to require hospitalization following a surveillance colonoscopy than their younger counterparts, reports Fox News. Surveillance colonoscopy is performed on those for whom disease has been previously detected and removed.
The U.S Preventive Services Task Force guidelines recommend routine colorectal cancer screenings in people between the ages of 50 and 75, reports Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. For those over 75 who have had consistent screenings starting at the age of 50 with negative results, the guidelines leave the colorectal cancer screening decision to the patient and doctor. The guidelines do not provide a recommendation with regard to routine screenings for those over age 75 who have never undergone screening previously. At least 40 percent of colorectal cancer diagnoses are made in those over 75, so the statistical odds favor routine colorectal screening in that population.
When considering screening colonoscopies, elderly patients must balance the risks of the procedure with the possible benefits, states Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. For elderly patients living with other serious conditions, such as COPD, dementia and congestive heart failure, conducting a screening for early
detection and removal of polyps or other abnormalities may not be worth the risks, due to their shorter life expectancies.