BACKGROUND: Because iatrogenic colonic perforation is uncommon, surgical management of this complication has been based on the civilian trauma experience. In this study, we determine the incidence, clinical presentation, and management of colonic perforations resulting from colonoscopy or barium enema. PATIENTS AND METHODS: The medical records of all patients with colorectal perforations due to barium enema or colonoscopy seen over a 5- year period were reviewed. RESULTS: Twenty-one patients, 12 males and 9 females aged 66 ± 16 years, undergoing evaluation for polyps and bleeding (11), diverticulosis (4), diarrhea (2), or miscellaneous indications (4) sustained colonic perforation from colonoscopy (18; 0.20%) or barium enema (3; 0.10%). Abdominal pain, 66% (13), and fever, 24% (5), were the most frequent symptoms encountered and extraluminal air, 67% (14), the most common radiologic finding. The site of perforation was the rectosigmoid in 62% (13) of patients. Eighteen patients underwent surgery; 11 within 24 hours (group I) and 7 patients within 6.0 ± 4 days (group II). Fifty percent (9 of 18) had primary repair or resection with anastomosis without mortality. Of the 6 patients initially treated nonoperatively, 3 subsequently underwent surgery. Both deaths, one in group I and one in group II, occurred in patients who had colonic diversion for perforation following colonoscopy. CONCLUSION: We conclude that in the absence of significant contamination either primary repair or resection and anastomosis can be performed with acceptable morbidity for iatrogenic perforations of the colon.
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