Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are there any risks involved in getting a colonoscopy?"
I?m 24 years old and because I?ve had a lot of stomach issues, my doctor wants me to get a colonoscopy. I?m afraid of invasive tests. Could anything go wrong if I get a colonoscopy? Are there serious risks involved?
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic (and sometimes a therapeutic) procedure in which the entirety of the colon is visually examined with a colonoscope. It usually requires the patient to undergo "bowel preparation" the day before, which involves drinking a bottle of solution (for example Go-Lytely) to cleanse the bowel to allow for better visualization. As with any invasive procedure there are risks, but with colonoscopies the risks are quite low. The overall rate of having a complication during a colonoscopy is 0.35% The most serious complications are bleeding and perforation. Most large studies report the risk of perforation between 0.02-0.2%. The risk of serious bleeding is reported as 0.2-2%. Bleeding risk is usually an issue when something is biopsied, otherwise bleeding is not as much of an issue. The risk of complication depends partly on the person performing the colonoscopy and their experience and comfort level in performing colonoscopies. In a young person such as yourself (24 years old by your description), the complication rate should be low. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most complications happen in older, more frail patients, but there may be confounding factors to suggest that. If your doctor recommends a colonoscopy it is a worthwhile test to have. It is generally safe as far as invasive tests go and it may provide important answers that would help treat your problem. Colonoscopies are usually performed by Gastroenterologists, general and colorectal surgeons.
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