New York medical malpractice attorneys receive a large number of inquiries regarding complications following a colonoscopy. Critical to managing some unavoidable complications of this very important test is the physician’s understanding of what can go wrong and how to react to post-procedure problems.
A colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large colon and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. It may provide a visual diagnosis (e.g. ulceration, polyps) and grants the opportunity for biopsy or removal of suspected lesions. Due to the health risks associated with colon cancer, the high effectiveness and relatively low risks associated with colonoscopy, it is now also becoming a routine screening test for people 50 years of age or older. Subsequent rescreenings are then scheduled based on the initial results, with a five- or ten-year recall being common for colonoscopies that produce normal results. A colonoscopy is a very important diagnostic test the value of which can not be underestimated.
As with every diagnostic procedure, colonoscopies carry certain statistical risks regardless of who is performing the procedure. colonoscopy risks include heavy bleeding, intestinal perforation (poking a hole in the bowel), infection, adverse reaction to the sedatives, and bowel infection. However, these complications rarely occur and are even less common with colonoscopies that don’t involve polyp removal. Post procedure nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, bleeding, abdominal pain and/or swelling must be reported to a physician immediately. The sooner post-procedure complications are attended to, the more likely the patient will make a complete recovery and avoid long-term consequences. If there is any difficulty with access to ones’ doctor following a colonoscopy, immediate presentation to the nearest emergency room is indicated. Waiting for medical attention is not a safe option.
Recently, a man underwent a colonoscopy for nausea, vomiting and unexplained weight loss. The day following the procedure, the patient’s wife called the doctor who performed the procedure and explained that her husband was not feeling well and was in a lot of pain. The doctor assured that everything was fine and that it was just gas. The next day the patient’s wife called back because her husband was worse and could not walk due to the pain. The doctor prescribed pain medication over the phone. Unfortunately, the medicine did not provide any relief. The next day the family was unable to contact the doctor despite 3 calls to the doctor’s service. The family waited until the next day to go their local emergency room at which time the patient was diagnosed with a bowel perforation and a severe infection. Emergency surgery to remove a portion of the patient’s colon had to be done.
This patient is now asserting a medical malpractice claim against the physician who performed the colonoscopy for failing to either see the patient immediately or refer him to the emergency room. However, perhaps had the physician been more familiar with the complications of a colonoscopy and how better to react to them, the extensive surgery and long-term health affects could have been avoided.
If you or a loved one suffer an injury during a colonoscopy, do not hesitate to seek medical care at once, including visiting an emergency room. Once the medical issues are addressed, an injured patient should consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney in New York to determine if there are grounds for a negligence action.
Contributor: Robert G. Sullivan, Esq