Know the possible side effects of colonoscopy, such as discomfort, swelling and rare complications.

Learn about the possible side effects of colonoscopy, such as discomfort, bloating, and rare complications.

Colonoscopy is a habitual medical procedure that is used to examine the interior of the colon and rectum. It implies the use of a long and flexible tube called colonoscope, which is introduced through the anus and is guided by the colon. Although coloscopy is generally considered a safe and effective procedure, there may be some side effects that patients may experience.

1. Bleeding: It is common to experience some bleeding after a coloscopy. This can occur due to biopsies or polype removal during the procedure. Most bleeding cases are minimal and are resolved by themselves, but in rare cases, additional medical intervention may be necessary.

2. 2. Abdominal discomfort: Some patients may experience abdominal discomfort from mild to moderate after a coloscopy. This may be due to the air used to inflate the colon during the procedure or to the manipulation of the colonoscope. The inconveniences usually send after a few hours or one day.

There are also some less frequent side effects that can occur after a coloscopy:

  • Colon drilling: rarely, the colonoscope can cause a small tear or hole in the colon. This can cause serious complications and require immediate medical care.
  • Infection: Although it is rare, there is a small risk of infection after a colonoscopy. This can happen if colon bacteria enter the bloodstream or if there is inappropriate cleaning of the colonoscope.
  • Allergic reaction: Some people may have an allergic reaction to sedatives or other medications used during the procedure. The symptoms can range from a slight itching or urticaria to more serious reactions such as difficulty breathing or swelling.

It is important that patients discuss any questions or questions about the possible side effects of a coloscopy with their health professional before submitting to the procedure. Most side effects are temporary and are resolved by themselves, but it is essential to be aware of potential risks and seek medical attention if necessary.

Common Side Effects of Colonoscopy

1. Abdominal discomfort and swelling: after a colonoscopy, it is common for patients to feel some discomfort in the abdominal zone. These discomforts can vary from mild to moderate and are usually temporary. It may be due to the air that is introduced into the colon during the procedure to facilitate visualization. You can also experience abdominal distension and gases, but these symptoms usually disappear in a few hours or days.

Important: It is important to keep in mind that severe or persistent abdominal pain, distension or swelling must be reported to the medical care provider immediately, since it may indicate a complication.

2. Changes in Depositions: After a colonoscopy, some patients may experience changes in their depositions. This may include an increase or decrease in the frequency of the depositions, changes in the consistency of the feces or the presence of mucus in the feces. These changes are usually temporary and disappear in a few days. However, if these changes persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional.

3. Mild rectal hemorrhage: It is not uncommon for patients to experience slight rectal hemorrhage after a colonoscopy. This can occur due to the insert of the colonoscope and the extraction of polyps or tissue samples for its subsequent exam. Hemorrhage is usually minimal and ceases alone. However, if the bleeding is persistent or abundant, you must communicate to the health professional.

Summary of the most frequent side effects
Common side effects Description
Abdominal discomfort and swelling Minor or moderate discomfort and swelling in the abdominal zone. They are usually temporary, caused by the air introduced during the procedure.
Changes in Depositions Temporary changes in the frequency, consistency or presence of mucus in the depositions. They must disappear in a few days.
Mild rectal hemorrhage Minimum rectal bleeding due to the insertion of the colonoscope or to the removal of polyps. It usually disappears on its own.

Rare but serious side effects

A possible rare side effect is colon drilling. This occurs when a hole or tear is formed in the wall of the colon, which allows the content of the intestines to filter the abdominal cavity. Drilling can be a serious complication and may require surgical intervention to repair it. It is important to note that the risk of drilling is very low, since it occurs in less than 1% of patients who undergo a coloscopy.

Colon drilling

Colon drilling is a rare but serious side effect of coloscopy. It occurs when a hole or tear is formed on the wall of the colon, which causes the exit of the intestinal content to the abdomen. Although this complication is rare, it can endanger the patient’s life and require urgent surgical intervention to repair drilling. The risk of drilling of the colon during a coloscopy is less than 1%.

NOTE: Colon’s drilling is a rare but serious complication of coloscopy. Patients should be aware of this potential risk and seek immediate medical care if they experience intense abdominal pain, hemorrhage or signs of infection after the procedure.

Excessive hemorrhage

Another rare but serious side effect of coloscopy is excessive bleeding. Although it is expected that a hemorrhage occurs after the procedure, excessive bleeding may occur. This may be due to a tear or lesion of a blood vessel of the colon. Patients may notice bright red blood in stool or experience symptoms of anemia such as fatigue and weakness. It is important to immediately inform the doctor of any excessive bleeding.

  1. If you experience intense or persistent abdominal pain after a coloscopy, look for immediate medical attention.
  2. Report to your health professional if you observe excessive bleeding or blood in the feces.
  3. Follow all the instructions after the procedure provided by your health team to minimize the risk of complications.

Table: Rare but serious side effects of coloscopy

Secondary effect Description Prevalence
Colon drilling Hole or tear in the wall of the colon that causes a leak of the intestinal content towards the abdomen. Less than 1% of cases
Excessive hemorrhage Unusually intense hemorrhage, often caused by a tear or lesion of a blood vessel of the colon. Rare cases

Pain and Discomfort During and After the Procedure

Pain during procedure

  • Patients undergoing coloscopy may experience minor to moderate discomfort during the procedure.
  • These discomforts are mainly due to the colonoscope insertion, a long and flexible tube, in the rectum and the colon.
  • The colonoscope allows the doctor to examine the colon lining in search of anomalies.
  • Although the colonoscope is lubricated, patients may feel some pressure, cramp or feeling of fullness when moving through the colon.

It is important to communicate to medical staff any pain or discomfort that is experienced during the procedure. You may be able to make adjustments or provide additional sedation to minimize discomfort.

Pain and discomfort after the intervention:

  1. After a coloscopy, patients may experience some gases and swelling due to the air pumped to the colon during the exam to provide better visibility.
  2. This can cause pain or temporal discomfort.

In addition, patients may experience cramps or slight rectal bleeding for a brief period after the procedure. These symptoms usually refer after a few hours or one day. It is important to follow the instructions after the procedure provided by the health professional to relieve discomfort and facilitate the recovery process.

Signs to take into account:
Although during and after a coloscopy it is common for mild discomfort, there are certain signs that must communicate to your health professional:
  • Intense pain
  • Excessive rectal bleeding
  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chill
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal distension
  • Fainting or dizziness

Risks of Bowel Perforation

Causes and symptoms:

  • An aggressive or forced insertion of the colonoscope can cause intestinal perforation.
  • Pr e-existing conditions, such as diverticulitis or intestinal inflammatory disease, can increase the risk of drilling.
  • Intestinal drilling symptoms can include intense abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and changes in deposits.

Risk and prevention factors:

  1. Patients who have had previous abdominal surgeries or conditions that increase the risk of adhesions are more prone to intestinal drilling.
  2. An adequate selection of the patient, an adequate intestinal preparation and the use of qualified and experienced health professionals can minimize the risk of intestinal drilling during colonoscopy.
  3. During the procedure, vital constants and patient’s symptoms must be closely monitored to early detect any intestinal drilling sign.

Risk factors and intestinal drilling prevention
Risk factor’s Preventive measures
Previous abdominal surgeries Adequate patient selection
Conditions that increase the risk of adhesion Adequate intestinal preparation
Aggressive colonoscope insertion Qualified and experienced health professionals

Risks of Infection

1. Bacterial infection: During a colonoscopy, a flexible tube is introduced into the rectum with a light and a chamber to examine the colon. As in any invasive procedure, there is a small risk of introducing bacteria in the colon. In some cases, bacteria can cause an infection. It is important that health professionals take precautions, such as using sterile material and following adequate hygiene protocols, to minimize this risk.

  • Prevention: Health professionals should use singl e-use disposable equipment whenever possible to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. In addition, they must thoroughly clean and disinfect the reusable equipment between the procedures to eliminate any possible bacteria.
  • Symptoms: The signs of a bacterial infection after a colonoscopy can include fever, chills, abdominal pain and diarrhea. If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat a bacterial infection. An intervention in time can help prevent the infection extending and causes more complications.

2. Viral infection: rarely, a colonoscopy can cause viral infection. Viruses, such as hepatitis or HIV, can be transmitted if infection control protocols are breached or if the equipment used is not correctly sterilized.

  • Prevention: Strict compliance with infection control measures, including adequate sterilization and cleaning of the equipment, can help reduce the risk of viral infections during a colonoscopy.
  • Symptoms: The symptoms of a viral infection may vary depending on the specific virus involved. It is important to be attentive to any unusual symptom after the procedure and inform a healthcare professional.
  • Treatment: The treatment of viral infections can vary depending on the specific virus and its severity. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional to obtain adequate diagnosis and treatment.

Considerations for Patients with Specific Medical Conditions

A medical condition that requires careful consideration is hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertensive patients may have doubts about how the procedure will affect their blood pressure levels. It is essential that health professionals monitor and control the blood pressure before, during and after the intervention to minimize possible risks. In addition, patients with hypertension may be taking medication to control their disease, and it is important to evaluate the interaction between these medications and any drug used during the procedure.

IMPORTANT: Patients with hypertension should inform their doctor of their illness and the medications they take. It is necessary to closely monitor blood pressure levels to guarantee a safe and satisfactory procedure.

Another medical problem that requires special considerations is diabetes. Diabetic patients may have questions about how the intervention will affect their blood sugar levels and the control of their disease. It is essential that healthcare professionals work closely with patients to develop an individualized glycemic control plan before, during and after the intervention. In addition, special attention should be paid to possible interactions between diabetes medications and anesthesia or other drugs used during the procedure.

Important: Diabetic patients should work closely with their doctor to develop a glycemic control plan before, during and after the intervention. It is essential to address any concerns and potential interactions with medications to ensure a safe and satisfactory outcome.

Author of the article
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Medical oncologist at the Robert Larner College of Medicine, MD, at the University of Vermont

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