| Read Time: 4 minutes | Medical Malpractice
complications from a colonoscopy

Colonoscopies are crucial medical procedures for detecting and preventing serious conditions like colorectal cancer. However, the thought of undergoing one can be unsettling for many.

When complications arise from a colonoscopy, it adds a layer of distress and uncertainty. At Poulos & Coates, LLP, we understand the sensitivity surrounding colonoscopies and the impact of potential complications.

If you believe you’re experiencing issues after a colonoscopy, you may wonder if legal recourse is an option. Let’s explore the signs that you may be experiencing complications from a colonoscopy, types of errors, liability considerations, and your legal options.

If you have questions, please contact us today.

Signs of Colonoscopy Complications and Timing

Signs of complications from a colonoscopy vary, and symptoms can manifest immediately after the procedure or days later. It’s crucial to pay attention to any unusual symptoms and seek medical attention promptly. Here are some common symptoms associated with colonoscopy complications:

  • Persistent abdominal pain—pain in the abdomen that persists or worsens after the procedure can indicate complications such as perforation or inflammation of the colon;
  • Rectal bleeding—bleeding from the rectum, especially if it is continuous or significant, may be a sign of complications like injury to the colon wall or bleeding from a polyp removal site;
  • Fever—a persistent fever following a colonoscopy could indicate an infection, which may occur if bacteria enter the bloodstream due to a perforation or other complications;
  • Changes in bowel habits—significant changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhea, constipation, or the presence of mucus or blood in the stool, can indicate underlying issues post-colonoscopy;
  • Nausea and vomiting—persistent nausea or vomiting after the procedure may signal complications such as bowel obstruction or reaction to anesthesia; and
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain—in rare cases, complications like pulmonary embolism or cardiac issues may manifest as difficulty breathing or chest pain.

It’s important to note that while these symptoms can be associated with colonoscopy complications, they can also have other causes. If you experience any of these symptoms or have concerns after a colonoscopy, seek medical attention promptly for proper evaluation and treatment.

How Long After a Colonoscopy Can Complications Arise?

Complications from a colonoscopy can arise within a few hours to several days after the procedure. While most patients recover without significant issues, it’s essential to be aware of potential complications and seek medical attention promptly if any concerning symptoms develop. Let’s discuss some common complications and their typical timeframes.

Immediate Complications

Some complications, such as perforation of the colon or bleeding, can occur during the colonoscopy procedure itself. Typically, the medical team performing the colonoscopy detects and manages such issues immediately.

Early Post-Procedure Complications

Within the first 24 hours after a colonoscopy, patients may experience mild side effects such as bloating, gas, or a feeling of fullness. These symptoms usually resolve on their own.

Delayed Complications

More serious complications, such as infection, bleeding, or bowel perforation, may not be immediately apparent and can arise within a few days after the colonoscopy. Symptoms of these complications may include severe abdominal pain, persistent bleeding, fever, chills, or changes in bowel habits.

Types of Errors During a Colonoscopy

Several errors can occur during a colonoscopy, potentially leading to complications or adverse outcomes. It’s important to note that while these colonoscopy errors can certainly occur, most colonoscopies are performed safely and effectively.

However, patients should be aware of potential risks, communicate any concerns or symptoms to their healthcare providers, and follow post-procedure instructions for optimal recovery. If an error does occur, you may have legal recourse. Here are some common errors associated with colonoscopies:

  • Incomplete examination. If your doctor fails to examine the entire colon thoroughly, he or she can miss abnormalities. Failing to detect lesions or detect and remove polyps—especially larger or precancerous ones—can result in missed opportunities for early intervention and colorectal cancer prevention.
  • Poor bowel preparation. Inadequate cleansing of the colon before the procedure can hinder visibility and make it challenging to identify abnormalities. This can increase the risk of missed diagnoses.
  • Perforation. Accidental perforation or puncture of the colon wall during the colonoscopy procedure can cause serious complications, including infection or peritonitis. It might also result in the need for surgical intervention.
  • Bleeding. Biopsy or polyp removal during a colonoscopy can sometimes lead to bleeding. While minor bleeding is common and usually resolves on its own, excessive or persistent bleeding may require further medical attention.
  • Instrumentation errors. Improper handling or use of colonoscopy instruments can cause damage to the colon lining, leading to complications such as perforation, bleeding, or discomfort.
  • Sedation-related issues. Administering anesthesia or sedation during the procedure carries risks, including respiratory problems, allergic reactions, or medication errors that can impact patient safety.
  • Misinterpretation of findings. Incorrectly interpreting colonoscopy findings or pathology results can lead to misdiagnosis or inappropriate management of colorectal conditions.

If you know what to look for, you might be able to get medical help more quickly after a colonoscopy error.

Liability and Legal Claims for Complications from a Colonoscopy

Determining liability for colonoscopy complications involves assessing the actions of medical professionals, including gastroenterologists, nurses, anesthesiologists, and the facility where the procedure took place. If negligence or substandard care contributed to your complications, you may have a legal claim for medical malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from the professional standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. It is important to work with an experienced malpractice attorney who can help you prove that the medical provider failed to meet the reasonable standard of care. 

Legal Options for Recovery and the Role of an Attorney

Seeking legal guidance in such cases is essential. At Poulos & Coates, LLP, our team includes a medical doctor and a nurse who will evaluate your case thoroughly. We work diligently to identify expert witnesses who can review your case and testify on your behalf.

Our goal is to prepare your case for trial while pursuing a fair settlement that compensates you for your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

And remember that holding a negligent healthcare provider accountable is not just about seeking compensation. It’s about ensuring that medical personnel adhere to professional standards of care, preventing similar incidents from happening to others, and promoting accountability within the healthcare system. By taking legal action, you contribute to improving patient safety and provider accountability.

Contact Poulos & Coates for Assistance

If you’re suffering from complications after a colonoscopy and believe negligence played a role, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Our experienced team at Poulos & Coates, LLP, is here to provide compassionate support, evaluate your case, and advocate for your rights. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

Author Photo

Victor Poulos

Vic Poulos & Greig Coates became law partners in April of 2002, when the two medical malpractice litigators merged their offices, combining what is now over seventy years of litigation experience, to form Poulos & Coates, LLP. Licensed to practice before all State Courts of Texas, New Mexico, Iowa, and Kansas. Licensed to practice before the United States District Courts of Kansas, Iowa, New Mexico, and Texas (Western, Eastern, Southern, and Northern Districts of Texas), as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the U.X. Ax Court.

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