Colonoscopy is a safe procedure, but every procedure has risks. It is important not to delay colonoscopy since it is a valuable test. A colonoscopy is often used for screening for colon cancer. It is very important to follow the guidelines for screening, based on your age and family history. You may receive some sedation during the procedure. It is important to discuss you past history with anesthesia to decrease the risks associated with sedation and/or anesthesia during the procedure. There is a small risk of bleeding but you will be monitored during and after the procedure and given instructions of what to look for so that complications can be detected early.
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David Greenwald, MD, Gastroenterology, answered on behalf of American Society for Gastrointestinal EndoscopyColonoscopy is very safe when performed by specially trained doctors with experience performing the procedure. As with any medical procedure, even in expert hands, unintended events may happen and you need to be aware of the potential consequences.
There is a small risk of having a reaction to any of the drugs given during the exam. In most cases, medications are available to counteract these side effects. A rare complication is tearing or perforation of the lining of the intestine. Should this occur, surgery may be needed to seal the injury. Another risk is bleeding, usually at the site of a biopsy or polyp removal. Most cases of bleeding stop without treatment or can be controlled at the time of procedure. Although complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it is important to be aware of early signs that something is wrong. You should not hesitate to contact your doctor up to two weeks after the colonoscopy if you feel abdominal pain, dizziness, fever/chills, or notice blood in your stools.