Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit For Injuries During a Colonoscopy?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on March 8, 2024 and updated on March 19, 2024.

doctor adjusting instruments before surgeryEven though colonoscopies are a common medical procedure, injuries can and do occur. While procedures like colonoscopies carry a risk of injury, sometimes the injury is caused by failing to uphold a standard of care.

If you think your injuries could have been avoided, doctors or others involved in your procedure may have engaged in medical malpractice. They may be liable for the additional medical expenses you accrued, along with pain and suffering and other damages.

In this blog, we discuss medical malpractice claims for colonoscopies, explaining the injuries that may occur, and when those injuries may have been caused by medical malpractice.

Our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers have a history of securing compensation for medical malpractice victims and our legal services come at no upfront cost.

Free legal consultation. Call The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl today: 410-297-0271.

What Is the Purpose of a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is an examination of the inner lining of your large intestine and rectum. Gastroenterologists use a flexible tube equipped with a camera, called a colonoscope, to look for abnormalities or disease within your colon.

A colonoscopy is one of the main diagnostic tools for colon cancer. During the procedure, the doctor looks for polyps and other potential signs of cancer. Doctors also look for ulcers and areas of inflammation. Doctors may remove polyps or take a biopsy for further analysis.

Doctors may order a colonoscopy when patients are dealing with constipation, rectal bleeding, pain in the abdomen or diarrhea.

Doctors recommend that adults aged 50 or older have regular screenings for colon cancer. Patients at higher risk may need to undergo the procedure more often, such as patients who have had colon polyps in the past.

What Types of Injuries Can Patients Suffer During a Colonoscopy?

Any medical procedure that involves sedating the patient can be dangerous, especially procedures where doctors put a tube-like tool inside the body to look inside. These are some of the injuries that can happen during a colonoscopy:

  • Perforation of the colon: Doctors need to be careful that they do not puncture the wall of the colon with the colonoscope. If this happens, the contents of your intestine could leak into your abdominal cavity, which is the most serious risk of a colonoscopy. The damage would need to be surgically repaired.
  • Bleeding: This can happen when gastroenterologists remove polyps, damage the wall of the colon or take a biopsy. Heavy bleeding may require further treatment.
  • Infection: You could develop an infection if bacteria enter the bloodstream, which could occur if your colon was perforated. However, the risk of an infection during a colonoscopy is relatively low. The risk is higher if doctors use poorly sterilized equipment.
  • Complications from anesthesia: Reactions to anesthesia can range from mild to life-threatening. Some people might have allergies to anesthesia, while others may experience high or low blood pressure, heart arrythmias or cardiac arrest. Some people might not wake up quickly enough from anesthesia. This could lead to low blood oxygen levels.
  • Post-polypectomy electrocoagulation syndrome: This occurs when electrical energy used to remove a polyp burns the bowel wall. This is painful injury could also cause a bowel perforation.
  • Complications from existing health conditions: Individuals with heart or lung diseases may be at increased risk of complications during medical procedures.

Gastroenterologists need to do a thorough medical evaluation before the procedure to determine a patient’s risk factors. This includes learning about preexisting medical issues and how they might affect you during the procedure.

When performing a colonoscopy, doctors need to be cautious to avoid excessive bleeding or bowel perforation. They need to carefully monitor your vital signs throughout the procedure for signs of distress, such as spikes in blood pressure or cardiac issues.

Examples of Medical Malpractice During a Colonoscopy

Medical malpractice means doctors failed to uphold the standard of care for the procedure and these failures caused the patient to suffer injuries and damages. Sometimes failing to uphold the standard of care is about things that a doctor did, while at other times it is about steps he or she failed to take.

Two of the most common examples of medical malpractice during a colonoscopy include:

Failure to Monitor

Doctors, nurses and others involved in the procedure must closely monitor the patient’s vital signs and how he or she responds to anesthesia. If health care providers do not notice signs of distress or properly respond to these signs, patients are at risk of severe or fatal injury. Signs of distress during a colonoscopy could include:

  • Heart arrythmia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Increase in blood pressure

Complications like these are often preventable, provided doctors properly monitor patients and respond according to medical standards.

Negligent Post-Operative Care

Ignoring or misinterpreting symptoms of complications, like bleeding or a bowel perforation, is incredibly dangerous. If doctors notice problems after the procedure and respond quickly, patients are likely to have a much better outcome. Delayed treatment increases the risk of excessive bleeding, dangerous infections and other problems.

There are other examples of colonoscopy medical malpractice, but we would generally not recommend pursuing cases for these types of failures. That said, each case is different.

Here are some examples of these other types of failures:

  • Failure To Obtain Informed Consent From the Patient: Doctors must fully inform patients about the risks and benefits of medical treatment. Patients need to know what they are signing up for. If something happens that they were not warned about, there may be a case for medical malpractice.
  • Failing To Properly Sterilize Equipment: This type of failure is way infections may occur. Sometimes hospitals have inadequate procedures for sterilizing equipment. If proper procedures are in place, some medical staff may not fully follow them. Doctors may not have noticed signs of unclean equipment. No matter how an infection occurs, patients who were injured by tools that were not properly sterilized may have a medical malpractice case.
  • Incorrect Technique: If the doctor applies too much force or mishandles the colonoscope, it can puncture the colon. This could happen because the doctor fails to use an appropriate amount of caution. Sometimes this is because the doctor does not have much experience doing the procedure. However, lack of experience is not an excuse for injuring a patient.
  • Lack of Training: A lack of training makes it harder to identify or properly treat issues in the colon. Doctors might not diagnose colon cancer or there could be a delayed diagnosis. Either of these situations makes it harder to provide effective treatment.

Generally, we may not recommend pursuing a claim for these types of issues, although each medical malpractice case is different.

Contact Us Today To Discuss a Potential Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If you believe you have suffered injuries due to medical malpractice during a colonoscopy, The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl may be able to help you. Medical malpractice cases can be incredibly complex, requiring detailed evidence and medical experts to validate what happened.

Our firm is well-equipped to guide you through the complexities of a colonoscopy malpractice claim. We have recovered millions for victims injured by medical malpractice.

Give us a call to learn more about our services. Phone: 410-297-0271.