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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Endoscopy Complications Quadruple Rate Reported by Doctors

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: New study on endoscopy complications in the latest Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Celiac.com 11/09/2010 - Each year in the United States, millions of people undergo gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopic procedures. Generally, the procedures have been regarded as safe, with a physician-reported complication rate for endoscopies of just 7%.

    However, most systems, including the gastroenterology department at Beth Israel,  maintain a voluntary, paper-based physician reporting system wherein each gastroenterologist submits a monthly log describing any known complications.

    To get a better idea of actual numbers based on Emergency Room (ER) visits within two weeks of an endoscopy, Daniel A. Leffler, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, set out with a research team to conduct a more in-depth review. 

    Their review of electronic medical records (EMR) showed that complications after endoscopy may be more common than previously thought.

    Dr. Leffler and his colleagues reviewed over 400 emergency department (ED) visits logged in one hospital's EMR system within two weeks of an endoscopic procedure.

    They found that nearly one-third of those visits were related to the previous endoscopy.

    Overall, they looked at records for follow-up visits for 6,383 esophagogastroduodenoscopies and 11,632 colonoscopies. The medical center's electronic reporting system showed 419 ED visits within two weeks of these procedures.

    The review team determined 32%, or 134 of these visits, to be directly related to the endoscopic procedure. Yet only about 7% of these were reported using the standard physician reporting system, the researchers said (P<0.001).

    The team also found that 29% of 266 subsequent hospitalizations were directly related to the patients' endoscopic procedure.

    Most of the ER visits were a result of abdominal pain (47%), gastrointestinal tract bleeding (12%), or chest pain (11%).

    By looking at actual electronic admission data, rather than relying on the more cumbersome physician reporting data, the research team found "a 1% incidence of related hospital visits within 14 days of outpatient endoscopy, 2- to 3-fold higher than recent estimates."

    This is important not just from a patient wellness perspective, but from a financial one. According to Medicare standardized rates, the average costs of endoscopic-related complications is $1403 per ED visit, and $10123 per hospitalization. Over the full screening and surveillance program, such complications added an extra $48 to each exam.

    The team's own words reinforce their conclusions: "Although the overall rate of severe complications, including perforation, myocardial infarction, and death remained low, the true range of adverse events is much greater than typically appreciated."

    Moreover, "standard physician reporting greatly underestimated the burden of medical care related to endoscopic procedures and unexpected hospital utilization," Leffler and colleagues wrote.

    With so many cases of celiac disease relying on biopsy via endoscopy, these numbers might be especially interesting to people with celiac disease, in addition to anyone else facing endoscopy in the future.

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    I have had complications every since I had my endoscopy (almost three years ago). I am so frustrated because I have had three G.I. specialists tell me it couldn't possibly be related to the endoscopy. I know my body and I KNOW that I did not have these issues until just after the endoscopy. I have left side/back pain with bloating and this creepy gurgling sensation (been tested for H-pylori (negative)). The only relief I've gotten is through my Chiropractor who says that he thinks maybe the tube was pulled out too quickly when the endoscopy was done causing a hiatal hernia? I've recently started taking a new pro-biotic (I've tried many) that is helping some with the gurgling issue (maybe I got a bug from the scope?). Still have the nagging left side/back pain on and off. Something is not right. Anyone else have/had issues like these?

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    I have had complications every since I had my endoscopy (almost three years ago). I am so frustrated because I have had three G.I. specialists tell me it couldn't possibly be related to the endoscopy. I know my body and I KNOW that I did not have these issues until just after the endoscopy. I have left side/back pain with bloating and this creepy gurgling sensation (been tested for H-pylori (negative)). The only relief I've gotten is through my Chiropractor who says that he thinks maybe the tube was pulled out too quickly when the endoscopy was done causing a hiatal hernia? I've recently started taking a new pro-biotic (I've tried many) that is helping some with the gurgling issue (maybe I got a bug from the scope?). Still have the nagging left side/back pain on and off. Something is not right. Anyone else have/had issues like these?

    I have had the exact same problems, except the pain is on the right side, which they initially thought was an appendix issue. When I told my doctor about the weird crawling-gurgling sensation, he immediately wanted to do an x-ray of my abdominal area. The x-ray showed a partial bowel obstruction, which he admitted could be caused because I had two endoscopies with-in a 60 day period. My problem is not solved yet, so now I have achalasia AND bowel problems. It is so frustrating! Follow your instinct - if something doesn't feel right, demand answers or switch doctors. You know your body better than anyone.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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