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Gastrointest Endosc. 2011 Oct;74(4):885-96. doi: 10.1016/j.gie.2011.06.023.

Adverse events in older patients undergoing colonoscopy: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, CA, USA. lukejohn.day@ucsf.edu



Studies suggest that advancing age is an independent risk factor for experiencing adverse events during colonoscopy. Yet many of these studies are limited by small sample sizes and/or marked variation in reported outcomes.


To determine the incidence rates for specific adverse events in elderly patients undergoing colonoscopy and calculate incidence rate ratios for selected comparison groups.


Elderly patients undergoing colonoscopy.


Systematic review and meta-analysis.


Perforation, bleeding, cardiovascular (CV)/pulmonary complications, and mortality.


Our literature search yielded 3328 articles, of which 20 studies met our inclusion criteria. Pooled incidence rates for adverse events (per 1000 colonoscopies) in patients 65 years of age and older were 26.0 (95% CI, 25.0-27.0) for cumulative GI adverse events, 1.0 (95% CI, 0.9-1.5) for perforation, 6.3 (95% CI, 5.7-7.0) for GI bleeding, 19.1 (95% CI, 18.0-20.3) for CV/pulmonary complications, and 1.0 (95% CI, 0.7-2.2) for mortality. Among octogenarians, adverse events (per 1000 colonoscopies) were as follows: cumulative GI adverse event rate of 34.9 (95% CI, 31.9-38.0), perforation rate of 1.5 (95% CI, 1.1-1.9), GI bleeding rate of 2.4 (95% CI, 1.1-4.6), CV/pulmonary complication rate of 28.9 (95% CI, 26.2-31.8), and mortality rate of 0.5 (95% CI, 0.06-1.9). Patients 80 years of age and older experienced higher rates of cumulative GI adverse events (incidence rate ratio 1.7; 95% CI, 1.5-1.9) and had a greater risk of perforation (incidence rate ratio 1.6, 95% CI, 1.2-2.1) compared with younger patients (younger than 80 years of age). There was an increased trend toward higher rates of GI bleeding and CV/pulmonary complications in octogenarians but neither was statistically significant.


Heterogeneity of studies included and not all complications related to colonoscopy were captured.


Elderly patients, especially octogenarians, appear to have a higher risk of complications during and after colonoscopy. These data should inform clinical decision making, the consent process, public health policy, and comparative effectiveness analyses.

Copyright © 2011 American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

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