Adverse events after outpatient colonoscopy in the Medicare population

Ann Intern Med. 2009 Jun 16;150(12):849-57, W152. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-150-12-200906160-00008.


Background: Although use of colonoscopy has increased substantially among elderly Medicare beneficiaries, no one has described colonoscopy-related adverse events in a representative sample of Medicare patients.

Objective: To determine risk for adverse events after outpatient colonoscopy in elderly patients.

Design: Population-based, matched cohort study.

Setting: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registry areas.

Patients: Random 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries, age 66 to 95 years, who underwent outpatient colonoscopy between 1 July 2001 and 31 October 2005 (n = 53 220), matched with beneficiaries who did not have colonoscopy.

Measurements: Medicare claims were used to measure the rate of serious gastrointestinal events (bleeding and perforation), other gastrointestinal events, and cardiovascular events resulting in a hospitalization or emergency department visit within 30 days after colonoscopy compared with matched beneficiaries who did not have colonoscopy. Logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted predictive risks for adverse events and to assess whether these events varied by age, comorbid conditions, or type of colonoscopy.

Results: Persons undergoing colonoscopy had a higher risk for adverse gastrointestinal events than their matched group. Rates of adverse events after colonoscopy increased with age. Patients having polypectomy had higher risk for all adverse events compared with their matched group and with the screening and diagnostic colonoscopy groups. Comorbid conditions increased the risk for adverse events. Patients with a history of stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, atrial fibrillation, or congestive heart failure had significantly higher risk for serious gastrointestinal events.

Limitation: The analysis relied on the diagnosis and procedure codes recorded on the Medicare claims.

Conclusion: Risks for adverse events after outpatient colonoscopy among elderly Medicare beneficiaries were low; however, they increased with age with specific comorbid conditions and depending on whether polypectomy was done. These data may inform decisions on whether to perform colonoscopy in persons of advanced age or those with comorbid conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colonoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Outpatients
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • United States