Colonoscopic perforations: a review of 30,366 patients

Surg Endosc. 2007 Jun;21(6):994-7. doi: 10.1007/s00464-007-9251-7. Epub 2007 Apr 24.


Background: Although the incidence of perforation after endoscopic procedures of the colon is low, the rising number of procedures could pose relevant health problems. Recognizing risk factors and optimizing treatment may reduce perforation incidence and the probability of (severe) complications. This study aimed to determine perforation frequency and the management of endoscopic colonoscopic perforation.

Methods: A retrospective review of patient records was performed for all patients with iatrogenic colonic perforations after sigmoido/colonoscopy between 1990 and 2005. The patients' demographic data, endoscopic procedural information, perforation location, therapy, and outcome were recorded.

Results: In the 16-year period, 30,366 endoscopic colonic procedures were performed. In total, 35 colonic perforations occured (0.12%). All the patients underwent a laparotomy: for primary repair in 18 cases (56%), for resection with anastomosis in 8 cases (25%), and for resection without anastomosis in 6 cases (19%). In three patients (8.6%), no perforation was found. The postoperative course was uncomplicated in 21 cases (60%) and complicated in 14 cases (40%), including mortality for 3 patients (8.6% resulting from perforations and 0.01% resulting from total endoscopic colon procedures). The relative risk ratio of colonoscopic and sigmoidoscopic procedures for perforations was 4. Therapeutic procedures show a delay in presentation and diagnosis compared with diagnostic procedures. Of the 35 perforations, 26 (74%) occurred in the sigmoid colon.

Conclusion: Iatrogenic colonic perforation is a serious but rare complication of colonoscopy. A perforation risk of 0.12% was found. The perforation risk was higher for colonoscopic procedures than for sigmoidoscopic procedures. The sigmoid colon is the area at greatest risk for perforation. Immediate operative management, preferably primary repair and sometimes resection, appears to be a good strategy for most patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Colonic Diseases / etiology*
  • Colonic Diseases / surgery
  • Colonoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease
  • Intestinal Perforation / epidemiology
  • Intestinal Perforation / etiology*
  • Intestinal Perforation / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies