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Complications After Colonoscopy

author image Helen Nnama
Helen Nnama has six years of writing experience. She is a health contributor to TBR Journal, editor of fertility confidential manuals, published poet, and a greeting card writer. She has a B.S. in microbiology, an M.S. in epidemiology, and is an M.D. candidate. A former state HIV/AIDS epidemiologist and NIA fellow at Johns Hopkins, she has research experience with published work.
Complications After Colonoscopy
Complications can be seen in patients after a colonoscopy. Photo Credit: Jochen Sand/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure which allows the physician to examine and visualize the lining of the colon or large intestine for the presence of any abnormalities. This procedure uses a long, narrow flexible lighted tube which is inserted through the anus, carefully advancing to the rectum and then to the colon. Colonoscopy may cause slight discomforts like bloating and cramping. Generally it’s very tolerable, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, but complications after colonoscopy can include bowel wall perforation, bleeding, infection, and adverse reactions to sedatives.

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Bowel Wall Perforation or Tears

Bowel wall perforation is the creation or development of a hole in the large bowel. With colonoscopy, there is a risk for tearing the bowel wall, and when this medical emergency happens, surgery and repair is required. The symptoms for bowel wall perforations include fever, chills and severe abdominal pain, according to MedlinePlus, a website supported by the National Institutes of Health..

Bleeding and Bloody Bowel Movements

Bleeding or a bloody bowel movement is one of the possible complications after colonoscopy. Although this is not common, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House, the risk for such condition is still there. Aside from visual examination of the colon, removal of abnormal looking tissue or polyps can also be done using tiny tools that are inserted together with the tube. The removal of such material can cause bleeding that is easily managed by electric probes or anti-bleeding medications.


Although the risk is minimal, infection and other blood borne diseases such as hepatitis, HIV and AIDS can still be transmitted from one patient to the other if infection control by means of mechanical cleaning, disinfection and post-processing is not done correctly, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Adverse Reactions to Sedatives

Sedatives and pain medications are used to help the patient feel relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In colonoscopy, the patient is made to lie on their left side on top of the examination bed or table. Afterward a light to heavy sedative is given to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Adverse reactions to sedatives after colonoscopy may include a decreased pulse rate, slow respirations and low blood pressure, according to MedlinePlus. Sedatives wear off in time; the patient will typically be able to recover shortly after a few hours.

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