Endoscopy of the large intestine, typically referred to as a colonoscopy, is the direct visual examination of the entire length of the large intestine by means of a flexible fiber-optic tube. A Colonoscopy is usually done in order to evaluate symptoms such as blood or mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits. Colonoscopies are now routinely ordered as a screening examination for colon cancer in those patients over 50 years of age. A colonoscopy that examines only the last 12 inches of the colon is called a sigmoidoscopy.
In the typical colonoscopy, the patient is brought to an endoscopy room and given a mild anesthetic via an intravenous line. The flexible colonoscope is then introduced into the patient’s rectum and slowly advanced throughout the colon while being controlled by images transmitted from the tip of the colonoscope. If suspicious areas such as ulcerations or polyps are encountered, tissue samples from those areas are usually taken for later analysis via special tools attached to the colonoscope. The typical procedure lasts from about 10 to 20 minutes and is usually recorded on video tape or some digital media for later review. Colonoscopies are almost always done on an outpatient basis, allowing the patient to be sent home after a brief period of observation.
Negligence, Injury, and Malpractice
When performed by an experienced physician, a colonoscopy is a relatively low-risk procedure; complications are thus rare and those that might occur are generally treated by close observation. Injuries to the colon that require immediate surgical repair sometimes occur due to excessive or careless manipulations of the colonoscope and can be, under certain circumstances, considered negligence on the part of the physician.
Generally, malpractice may be alleged if the physician fails to act in a manner that is consistent with the currently-accepted standards of care expected of other physicians performing the same procedure. Malpractice may include, but is not limited to: failure to monitor the patient’s vital signs during the procedure; failure to perform a complete exam by taking inadequate tissue samples; failure to respond to complications, or failure to order additional and/or proper pre- or post-procedural laboratory tests.
If malpractice can be proven, damages (compensation) may be awarded for:
• Unnecessary pain and suffering
• Lost wages or other forms of income
• Costs of hospitalization and additional medical treatment
• Loss of companionship
• Wrongful death
When to Seek Legal Advice
Unless there is some obvious injury that has occurred during or immediately after colonoscopy, the question of malpractice is often difficult to decide. Anyone that has reason to believe that they have suffered an injury that was due to malpractice on the part of the physician performing their colonoscopy should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A qualified malpractice attorney will have the skill and resources to guide his or her clients through the complexities of case preparation and court procedures unique to a given case that is filed within a given jurisdiction. Furthermore, since malpractice attorneys will be compensated for their own time and expenses only if they are successful in proving malpractice, it is to their advantage to win the highest possible settlement amount for their clients.