If you’ve turned 50, you may have had to work to talk yourself into getting your first colonoscopy. It’s an uncomfortable procedure performed on an embarrassing part of your anatomy, but you read up on the risks of colon cancer and the benefits of starting to get regular screenings as you age, and you decided to bite the bullet and get it done.
You scheduled your appointment with a gastroenterologist, and followed the instructions for cleansing your colon to the letter, including living on a liquid diet for several days. You probably never wanted solid food so much in your life. You go in for your procedure and are put on sedatives that relax you and help numb the pain. Everything seems to go OK, and the doctor tells you you’re clear of any polyps. You can breathe easy until you’re due for your next screening.
You go home, and after the sedatives wear off you’re feeling a lot of pain. You expected to be sore, but this seems unusual. Your doctor prescribed you some pain medicine, so you take that and hope for the best. After a few days, the pain hasn’t gone away, you feel really bloated, and you’re starting to feel really sick, almost like you have the flu. You end up in the emergency room and find out that your colon was perforated and you have an infection called peritonitis.
You’re rushed into surgery so that the hole can be repaired, and you end up spending days in the hospital. You’re unable to work while you’re recovering, and you’re worried about getting a stack of bills for the surgery and hospital stay. You’re also suffering the humiliation and discomfort of having to use a colostomy bag for the time being until your colon heals.
When you are injured or become sick because of negligence by a health provider, such as a gastroenterologist or colonoscopist, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. If you think you might want to pursue a claim, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can explain your options. Depending upon the circumstances of your injury, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
According to a 2011 article in the medical journal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the risk of serious injury or complication from a colonoscopy is relatively low. However, some patients may experience complications that include the following:
- Perforations — A perforation is when a hole is punched in your bowel. It can lead to pain and distention of the abdoman, and if left untreated patients may develop peritonitis when matter leaks from the bowel into the abdomen and causes an infection. Perforations can cause serious illness or death. When the colon is perforated during a colonoscopy, the person performing the procedure should get a surgical consultation. If that doesn’t happen, the lack of consultation may be malpractice in addition to the malpractice committed when the colon was negligently perforated.
- Cardiopulmonary Complications — Complications involving the heart and lungs typically are associated with sedation, and could be minor fluctuations or as serious as respiratory arrest or heart attack. The risk of heart and lung problems associated with colonoscopy rises with age, and the potential risk of using anesthesia on a patient should be evaluated before the procedure. The patient also should be monitored throughout the procedure and afterward to watch for possible complications. If a medical provider fails to assess the anesthesia risk or to monitor the patient before, during, and after the colonoscopy and complications arise, that may be malpractice.
- Bleeding — Minor bleeding is not unusual, but significant bleeding is a sign that something is wrong. Significant bleeding after a colonoscopy may require surgery or transfusions.
- Infection — Infection may happen if instruments aren’t properly sterilized or the doctors and medical staff performing the colonoscopy don’t follow standard infection control procedures. Infections can be very serious, especially for older people or people with chronic health conditions that weaken their immune systems.
- Gas Explosion — Explosive complications can happen when gas is present in the colon and electrical instruments are used. The combination of hydrogen, methane, oxygen and electricity can cause combustion. It’s a very rare complication, but when it happens it can result in perforation or death. Gas explosion may happen when the patient is given inadequate preparation before the procedure.
- Death — Death is rare, but there have been reported fatalities within 30 days after a colonoscopy that were specifically linked to the procedure.
If you have been injured due to a colonoscopy error, you may have a medical malpractice claim depending on the situation. We recommend that you speak with an experienced Chicago malpractice lawyer to determine if you have a claim and how the process for personal injury works. Staver Law Group offers free consultations to help you explore your options. You can call us anytime at .