Understanding The Possible Risks Associated With A Colonoscopy

Typically, a colonoscopy exam is pretty safe and complications seldom arise. The colonscope, a thin and flexible tube-like instrument, is injected into the anus which enables the physician to monitor the state and health of the inside of the colon. This device displays video for the doctor or nurse to view and helps in spotting areas of concern such as lesions or colon polyps. It also helps in taking a biopsy of tissues, which are examined for the presence of anything dangerous such as the presence of cancerous cells.

This process is usually painless but it may lead to complications in the patients undergoing the treatment. Despite tremendous advances in medical technology and techniques there will always remain risk to patients, even though they may be slight.

Minor Adverse Reactions

Minor complications include nausea and vomiting. Other complications can be skin allergies around the anus and lack of water in the body. Dehydration is very general, as the passage of the colon has to be rid of solids so that proper examination could be taken. Dehydration is primarily the result of the colonoscopy prep process.

During the endoscopy exam, the inside of the colon may be partially filled with air so that the internal areas being looked at can be better seen on the video monitor. The main side effect of this which can arise is stomach cramps. This may be slightly painful and uncomfortable but seldom dangerous. Swelling in the abdomen may also occur. Cramping and bloating usually subside relatively quickly.

When a patient’s biopsy is done a small quantity of tissue is snipped out from the body. For this reason, it may happen that the bowel movements may comprise of small quantities of blood shortly after the procedure. The person undergoing treatment may experience blood loss for a temporary period and it is just a minor side effect, which will not give much difficulties.

Possible allergic reaction to the colonoscopy prep mixtures or pills may present themselves before the actual examination. The risk that is implicated is the same with any other medication. Further, there is a low rate of occurrence of the intestinal wall being damaged, destroyed or scraped with the instruments being used.

More Serious Complications

One of the more serious risks is gastrointestinal perforation. In some cases, serious perforation can be life threatening and requires major surgery for its repair. According to medical research the colon cancer data shows that the most ruthless complications that may arise through colonoscopy are perforation(0.029% to 0.72% cases), death of 0.003% to 0.03% of patients of colonoscopy and heavy bleeding which takes place in 0.2% to 2.67% colonoscopies. An analysis shows that the risks of perforation is nearly twice as high during a colonoscopy than that of a sigmoidoscopy.

When bleeding complications arise, they can be handled by using the instrument for cauterization instantly to remedy the situation if caught during the exam. Bleeding can also take place after one week; this can happen at the site of removal of polyp. To cure the delayed bleeding the procedure can be repeated. Due to possible adhesions between spleen and colon in some patients, there are chances that spleen rupture may take place.


“Cardiopulmonary complications” can also arise as it can happen in any operation-involving anesthesia. A drop in blood pressure for a temporary period or oxygen saturation can also take place, which is an effect of overdose of medicines. When anesthesia is given, it is possible that one will get blood clots; which may result in deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

In seldom cases, cardiac arrest, death or stroke may occur which are obviously very serious cardiopulmonary occurrences.


Laxatives and prep mixtures and prep pills may lead to dehydration and patients must be sure to drink plenty of water in order to reduce loss of fluid and stay hydrated. Loss of electrolytes is a very bad sign for your body as it can lead to major risks over time.

Prepping for a colonoscopy examination is an extremely valuable part of the process before a patient can undergo a colonoscopy to detect early forms of colon cancer or other colon conditions. Even though certain risks may be present, they occur at a relatively low rate. It is important to be aware of what could possibly go wrong, but it should hopefully not discourage anyone from going through with the procedure. For more information, be sure to discuss in further detail with your physician about the possible side effects, risks and complications of undergoing a colonoscopy.