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February 14th, 2011

Can colonoscopy cause diverticulitis?

Many of you out there have done many tens of thousands of colonoscopy like I have and are well aware of the complications most known to be associated with this procedure, like bleeding or perforation. And most of us are aware of very unusual complications that have been reported, such as splenic lacerations or barotraumas.

However, I recently had a patient develop acute diverticulitis within 24 hours of colonoscopy, and I have consulted in the last year on another patient who developed diverticulitis shortly after the procedure.

Although diverticulitis precipitated by colonoscopy prep or the procedure itself (microperforation from the bowel prep, pressure from the shaft of the instrument or air infused during the procedure, etc.) is plausible, there seems to be little in the literature on this subject.

One reason for the lack of data might be that there is not really an association, that these are two unrelated events. Another might be that because diverticulitis is not immediately evident (like bleeding or perforation), the causal link has been missed, given that delayed complications are not often reported in large series of procedures.

So I am asking you endoscopists out there:
1) Have you observed diverticulitis in a patient shortly after a colonoscopy?
2) Do you think the procedure can cause diverticulitis?
3) If so, what do you think the mechanism is for this complication?

I look forward to hearing from you.

52 Responses to “Can colonoscopy cause diverticulitis?”

  1. Tom says:

    Am a family doc with a history of diverticulitis 18 years ago. Find since, developed diverticulitis two weeks after colonoscopy. As there is a reasonable mechanism for a causal association, this is probably a reasonably rare but significant complication of the procedure and should be studied.

  2. Janet Saluk says:

    I am a nurse practitioner who developed diverticulitis last week– and had a routine colonoscopy in mid August that showed diverticula
    I have never had this before–and had been eating the healthiest I have ever eaten and exercising regularly-and was feeling best I had in a long time
    In hindsight, I have had some mild discomfort after BM’s for a week or so–so was probably smoldering for a while. Also, while undergoing my Miralax prep, I noticed small “plugs” near end while rest was clear…could these have been materials released from diverticula??? z
    This def merits further retrospectives study!

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