Potential complications of a colonoscopy include a torn colon or rectum wall or bleeding from the area where the doctor obtained a tissue sample or removed an abnormal tissue, according to Mayo Clinic. A patient might also experience an adverse reaction to the sedative administered during the procedure.
Perforation of the bowel means that a hole has formed all the way through. An error in manipulating the surgical devices during polyp removal as part of the colonoscopy can cause this, although it is also a risk in older colonoscopy patients because of the fragility of the tissue. When this happens, the contents of the colon can spill out into the abdominal cavity. This leads to inflammation on the membrane lining the cavity, and this is an emergency necessitating immediate treatment, as stated by Healthline.
The other two complications are not as potentially dangerous for the patient. In general, the benefits of colonoscopy procedures in terms of screening for cancer make the risks worthwhile. A study released in January 2011 found that colonoscopies save lives by helping doctors find and remove polyps before they can develop into malignant cancers in the colon. Yearly, over a million people worldwide receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis, and the disease kills more than half of them, states WebMD.
A colonoscopy involves few risks and rarely leads to complications, notes Mayo Clinic. Doctors perform the test to identify abnormalities in the rectum and large intestine. They insert a colonoscope, which is a flexible tube with a small video camera at the edge, into the rectum to examine the entire colon. Doctors sometimes take a tissue sample for further examination or remove abnormal tissue, such as polyps.
Physicians perform a colonoscopy to detect problems such as colon cancer, explains Healthline. The procedure allows them to search for signs of a cancer; identify the cause of unexplained bowel habit changes, diarrhea or chronic constipation; or assess pain or bleeding symptoms in the abdominal region.
To prepare for the exam, a person should follow the doctor's instructions, especially in maintaining a clear liquid diet for 24 to 72 hours before the colonoscopy, states Healthline. It is essential to avoid drinking fluids with red or purple dye content, as they can discolor the colon. Individuals must ask another person to drive them home after the procedure.