When there's no biopsy or polyp removal, these serious complications occurred in only 1 in 1,000 colonoscopies. With biopsy or polyp removal, 7 in 1,000 patients were hospitalized for colonoscopy complications.
The study, from Kaiser Permanente researcher Theodore R. Levin, MD, and colleagues looked at records for more than 16,000 patients who underwent colonoscopies. There were 82 serious complications.
However, very few of these patients were getting colonoscopies as their initial colon cancer screening test. Levin and colleagues warn that the colonoscopy complication rate they found may not apply to patients who get screening colonoscopies.
Even so, the researchers warn that colonoscopy seems to carry a higher complication rate than other colon-cancer screening tests.
They also warn that delayed bleeding after colonoscopy is not uncommon -- even when only small, benign polyps are removed.
The findings appear in the Dec. 19 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
SOURCE: Levin, T.R. Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 19, 2006; vol 145: pp 880-886.
By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed by Louise Chang