In general, colonoscopy is a very safe procedure. Overall, complications occur in less than 1% of patients. Most complications are not life-threatening; however, if a complication occurs, it may require hospitalization and surgery. Prior to the exam, a consent form will be reviewed with the patient by the nursing staff. Should any questions or concerns arise, these can be discussed with your physician prior to beginning the procedure.
Medication reactions associated with the sedation can occur. These can include but are not limited to allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, affects on the heart and blood pressure, and irritation of the vein used to give the medication.
Bleeding can occur with biopsies and the removal of polyps. Again, significant bleeding, which might require a blood transfusion or hospitalization is very uncommon. However, bleeding can occur at the time of the exam or out to 2 weeks after the exam if a polyp is removed.
Perforation or puncture of the colon can occur. This may be recognized at the time of the exam, or it may not be apparent until later in the day. In most cases, a perforation will require surgery and hospitalization. This is an uncommon complication, even when polyps are removed.
It is very important that the patient contact the doctor’s office immediately if symptoms arise after the procedure, such as worsening abdominal pain, bleeding, or fever.
Like any other test, a colonoscopy is not perfect. There is a small, accepted risk that abnormalities, including polyps and cancers, can be missed at the time of the exam. It is important to continue to follow-up with your doctors as instructed and inform them of any new or persistent symptoms.