Adverse events associated with colonoscopy; an examination of online concerns

Yom-Tov, Elad; Lebwohl, Benjamin

Colonoscopy as a screening and diagnostic tool is generally safe and well-tolerated, and significant complications are rare. The rate of more mild adverse effects is difficult to estimate, particularly when such effects do not result in hospital admission. We aimed to identify the rate and timing of adverse effects as reported by users querying symptoms on an internet search engine.

We identified queries made to Bing originating from users in the United States containing the word “colonoscopy” during a 12-month period and identified those queries in which the timing of colonoscopy could be estimated. We then identified queries from those same users for medical symptoms during the time span from 5 days before through 30 days after the colonoscopy date.

Of 641,223 users mentioning colonoscopy, 7013 (1.1%) had a query that enabled identification of their colonoscopy date. The majority of queries about colonoscopy preceded the procedure, and concerned diet. 28% of colonoscopy-related queries were made afterwards, and included queries about diarrhea and cramps, with 2.6% of users querying respiratory symptoms after the procedure, including cough (1.2%) and pneumonia (0.6%). Respiratory symptoms rose significantly at days 7–10 after the colonoscopy.

Internet search queries for respiratory symptoms rose approximately one week after queries relating to colonoscopy, raising the possibility that such symptoms are an under-reported late adverse effect of the procedure. Given the widespread use of colonoscopy as a screening modality and the rise of anesthesia-assisted colonoscopy in the United States in recent years, this signal is of potential public health concern.

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Also Published In

BMC Gastroenterology

More About This Work

Published Here
December 20, 2022


Colonoscopy, Colorectal Cancer, Complications