How common are complications after an endoscopic procedure?
Travis Barker, American musician, experienced extreme stomach pain a few days after an endoscopy in which a polyp was removed. Barker eventually specified on Twitter that he had developed pancreatitis from a complication.
During the endoscopy, I had a very small polyp removed right in a very sensitive area, usually handled by specialists, which unfortunately damaged a critical pancreatic drainage tube. This resulted in severe life-threatening pancreatitis.
— Travis Barker (@travisbarker) July 2, 2022
Dean Tajnai, a gastroenterology nurse practitioner at Aurora Health Center, in Racine Wis., says, “Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas organ. Pancreatitis is a very painful disease process. The pain is so severe it radiates from the epigastric region to the back.”
Tajnai says symptoms of pancreatitis include tenderness when touching the upper abdomen, fever, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss and oily, smelly stools also known as steatorrhea.
Developing pancreatitis from a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy is rare.
“All five of my gastroenterologists have had many years of experience in performing colonoscopies and all of them have said they have not seen any cases of pancreatitis after performing a colonoscopy,” says Tajnai. “I have had 17 years of gastroenterology experience and have not seen a case of pancreatitis occur as a direct result of a colonoscopy.”
Colonoscopies help identify and remove polyps which can be potentially lifesaving.
“Generally, the colonoscopy is well tolerated. The colon preparation seems to be the most burdensome issue involved with the colonoscopy procedure. Significant diarrhea results from the colonoscopy prep and most people are not prepared for that,” says Tajnai.
Generally, there is not discomfort after a colonoscopy, but he tells patients to monitor for symptoms of:
- Severe abdomen distention
- Rectal bleeding
- Nausea or vomiting
If any of these events occur, you need to call the center where you had the colonoscopy done for further direction of care immediately.
Similarly, an upper endoscopy involves a doctor inserting an endoscope through the mouth down into the stomach.
“Generally, after an upper endoscopy there is not discomfort or pain associated with the procedure. Patients should monitor for symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, neck swelling or excessive pain in the chest,” says Tajnai. “Patients may have some mild pain or discomfort in the chest which should pass within 1 to 2 hours after the upper endoscopy and with the passage of air.”
Colonoscopies are very beneficial and are recommended for people nearing the age of 45. If complications occur, contact a doctor.
Learn about colonoscopy risk factors by taking a free colorectal health assessment here.