Damage Control: Management of Procedure-Associated Complications

List of Abbreviations


Colitis-associated neoplasia


Crohn’s disease


Confidence interval




Controlled radial expansion


Computed tomography


Endoscopic balloon dilation


Enterocutaneous fistula


Enteroenteric fistula


Electrolyte solution


Endoscopic mucosal resection


Endoscopic stricturotomy


Endoscopic submucosal dissection


Endoscopy treatment–associated stricture


Examination under anesthesia




Inflammatory bowel disease


Ileocolonic anastomosis


Ileocolonic resection


Ileal pouch-anal anastomosis


Nasogastric tube


Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug


Over-the-scope clip


Procedure-associated complications


Primary sclerosing cholangitis


Pouch-vaginal fistula


Rectal-vaginal fistula


Tumor necrosis factor


Through-the-scope clip


Ulcerative colitis


The author is supported by the Ed and Joey Story Endowed Chair.


The natural history of Crohn’s disease (CD) dictates that a vast majority of patients would develop stricture and/or fistula during the disease course, and eventually need surgery. Approximately 20%–25% of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) would need colectomy for medically refractory disease or colitis-associated neoplasia (CAN). Restorative proctocolectomy and ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) is the surgical treatment of choice for patients who UC or familial adenomatous polyposis who require colectomy. In the majority of patients with CD or UC, surgery is not a cure, and postoperative disease recurrence and complications are common, including stricture, anastomotic leak and sinus, fistula, and abscess.

Medical therapy plays a limited role in the treatment of stricture. While medical therapy may be effective in the management of perianal fistula, its role in the treatment of enteroenteric fistula, enterocutaneous fistula, rectal-vaginal fistula, and pouch-vaginal fistula is minimal. In addition, medical therapy has a minor role in the treatment of anastomotic stricture and anastomotic leak or sinus. This leaves room for endoscopic therapy in the management of preoperative and postoperative complications of CD or UC. Therefore, there is an evolving role of endoscopic management of complications of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In the past decade, endoscopic therapy has emerged as a valid alternative to medical and surgical therapy. Endoscopic therapy has been proven to be more effective than medical therapy while less invasive than surgical intervention in the treatment of mechanical complications, such as stricture. Endoscopic therapy can serve as a bridging treatment modality between the medical and surgical therapy. Therapeutic endoscopy in IBD, like ones in other parts of digestive system carries an increased risk for procedure-associated complications (PAC), as compared with diagnostic endoscopy.

The prevalence of colonoscopy-associated complications has been systemically studied. In a metaanalysis of 21 eligible studies, the investigators reported a pooled prevalence for postcolonoscopy perforation, bleeding, and mortality was 0.5/1,000, 2.6/1000, and 2.9/100,000 colonoscopies, respectively. Colonoscopy with polypectomy was associated with a perforation rate of 0.8/1000 and a postpolypectomy bleeding rate of 9.8/1000. The complication rate was lower for screening/surveillance than for diagnostic examinations. In general, the reported frequency of perforation from diagnostic colonoscopy ranged from 0.03% to 0.8%, and therapeutic colonoscopy, from 0.15% to 3%. Our study of 217,334 lower gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy (IBD, N = 9518 and non-IBD, N = 207,816) from the Cleveland Clinic Health System, showed a rate of perforation of 18.91/10,000 procedures and 2.50/10,000 procedures for IBD and non-IBD endoscopy, respectively. We further analyzed the risk factors and outcome of 84 patients with IBD and non-IBD (colonoscopy N = 70; sigmoidoscopy, N = 6; ileoscopy, N = 6; and pouchoscopy, N = 2). The rates of perforation in colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, ileoscopy via stoma, and pouchoscopy in IBD and non-IBD patients were 18.91 and 2.50; 4.98 and 2.57; 21.61 and 101.69; 32.68, and <0.1 per 10,000 procedures, respectively. Therefore, we believe that IBD-related lower GI endoscopy carries a higher risk for perforation than their non-IBD counterparts.

Bleeding is another common complication for endoscopy. However, a time-trend analysis showed that postcolonoscopy bleeding declined from 6.4 to 1.0/1000 colonoscopies, while the perforation and mortality rates remained stable from 2001 to 2015. In a Japanese national inpatient database, the investigators analyzed 345,546 patients undergoing therapeutic colonoscopy, including 16,812 (4.9%) with endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD), 219,848 (63.6%) with endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), and 108,886 (31.5%) with polypectomy. The rates of bleeding, bowel perforation, cardiovascular events, cerebrovascular events, and death were 32.5, 0.47, 0.05, 0.88, and 1.32 per 1000 patients, respectively. There are no published controlled studies on risk factors for bleeding and postprocedural ileus in IBD patients undergoing therapeutic endoscopy.

Those PAC can be managed conservatively with observation, endoscopically, or surgically.

Iatrogenic Perforation

In non-IBD patients, the commonly performed lower GI endoscopy is screening or surveillance colonoscopy with biopsy and polypectomy. The settings of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy in IBD are different from that in non-IBD patients. Diagnostic endoscopy in IBD is performed for the initial diagnosis, disease monitoring, and dysplasia surveillance with biopsies. With regard to therapeutic endoscopy, polypectomy is not common in IBD patients. Instead, the common therapeutic modalities in IBD are endoscopic balloon dilation (EBD), followed by EMR, ESD, endoscopic stricturotomy (ES), endoscopic fistulotomy, and endoscopic sinusotomy. The risk factors and management of IBD-associated endoscopy perforation are different from that in non-IBD patients. Bowel tissue at or adjacent to perforation site is often not healthy and some patients may be on systemic corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications, therefore simple suturing or endoscopic closure of perforated bowel may be not adequate, with a risk of a secondary leak ( Table 29.1 ).

Table 29.1

Comparison of Endoscopy for IBD and Non-IBD Patients

Common indications for diagnostic endoscopy Disease diagnosis and monitoring, and dysplasia surveillance Screening and surveillance of colon polyps with biopsy
Common indications for therapeutic endoscopy Endoscopic balloon dilation, endoscopic stricturotomy, EMR, ESD, sinusotomy, fistulotomy Polypectomy
Endoscopy type Colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, ileoscopy via stoma, colonoscopy via stoma, pouchoscopy Colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy
Bowel anatomy Often altered by surgery Often intact
Underlying disease Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, ileal pouch diseases Underlying gut disease uncommon
Tissue at endoscopic perforation or bleeding site Often inflamed or fibrotic No or minimal inflammation
Tissue adjacent to endoscopic perforation or bleeding site Often inflamed or fibrotic Healthy
Quality of bowel preparation Can be poor, especially in those with strictures Poor preparation rare
Concurrent use of immunosuppressants Often Rare
Nutrition status Often poor Often good

IBD , inflammatory bowel disease; EMR , endoscopic mucosal resection; ESD , endoscopic submucosal dissection.

Causes, Risk Factors, and Mechanisms

The main mechanisms or etiology for perforation are air insufflation, mechanical trauma, polypectomy, and thermal injury. The diagnostic colonoscopy-associated perforation largely results from mechanical force, due to looping and angulation of the scope shaft or simply the barotrauma from the tip of the scope. In contrast, therapeutic endoscopy–associated perforation is mainly the consequence of electrocoagulation, such as hot snare polypectomy, EMR, ESD, and ES, fistulotomy or sinusotomy, with EBD as an exception. The difference in the mechanisms may explain why the size of diagnostic colonoscopy–associated perforation is generally larger than that from therapeutic colonoscopy.

Risk factors associated with complications of EBD-associated perforation in patients with IBD included concurrent active mucosal inflammation, corticosteroid use, ileosigmoid or ileorectal anastomotic strictures, and disease-related primary strictures. A multivariate analyses of a Japanese national inpatient database of 345,546 patients undergoing therapeutic colonoscopy showed that the risk factors for bowel perforation were male, renal disease, ESD, tumor size ≥ 2 cm, and the use of drugs like warfarin, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID), and corticosteroids. The risk factors for other therapeutic modalities in interventional IBD have not been reported. We speculate that a high degree of underlying inflammation, anatomy of lesions, and endoscopist’s expertise play a major role.

Diagnosis of Endoscopic Perforation

In most cases, iatrogenic perforation occurs during the endoscopic procedure, which can and should be recognized or diagnosed onsite, in endoscopy room or endoscopy recovery suite. The general rule is to diagnose earlier and intervene earlier, to prevent complication’s complications, such as bowel resection and fecal diversion surgery. The symptoms and signs may occur and the diagnosis of perforation may be made: (1) immediately when the scope is still in situ; (2) at the time in endoscopy recovery room; (3) within 24 h after discharge; or (4) 24 h after the procedure.

The best time for the intervention is rescuing treatment immediately after diagnosis with the scope in situ. However, onsite diagnosis of perforation can be difficulty. Endoscopist may be able to directly see the unintended area of the therapy, such as muscalaris proparia, serosa, or abdominal or pelvic cavity ( Fig. 29.1 ). A second look at the treated area is recommended to identify perforation as well as to assess results of initially planned endoscopic treatment. However, it is not absolutely necessary to traverse all treated strictures with endoscopy. The deep tear from EBD ( Fig. 29.2 ) or electroincision ( Fig. 29.3 ), even in the absence of obvious perforation, should be treated, with endoscopic clips, as a precaution. Sometimes the diagnosis of onsite perforation may be suspected if the patient suddenly experiences abdominal pain, bloating, sweating, difficulty in breathing, tachycardia, drop of blood pressure, and requirement of excessive oxygenation or medications. Malfunction of balloon may cause incidental deep tear and the patient should be monitored closely ( Fig. 29.4 ). EBD for the treatment of stricture at stapled anastomosis can carry a higher risk for perforation than that for the stricture of handsewn anastomosis, based on this author’s experience. Extreme precaution should be exerted ( Fig. 29.5 ).

Figure 29.1

Perforated bowel after endoscopic balloon dilation. (A) A transmural tear; (B) serositis from the perforation.

Figure 29.2

Perforation from balloon dilation of ileorectal anastomotic stricture and rescue therapy. (A) A tight fibrotic stricture; (B) balloon dilation with a size of 20 mm; (C) an iatrogenic perforation; (D) deployment of an over-the-scope clip, viewed 24 h later.

Figure 29.3

Prophylactic endoclip placement. (A) Balloon dilation of ileorectal anastomosis stricture; (B) a deep tear from the dilation; (C) prophylactic placement of endoclips to prevent full-thickness perforation; (D) rescuing endoscopic stricturotomy for the recurrent stricture 2 weeks later, which was considered relative contraindication for endoscopy balloon redilation.

Figure 29.4

Deep tear by ruptured balloon. (A) A tight ileocecal valve stricture; (B) balloon dilation of the stricture; (C) ruptured balloon during insufflation; (D) the tear at the side of ruptured balloon.

Figure 29.5

Perforation from balloon dilation of stricture of stapled ileocolonic anastomosis. (A) A tight stricture at the stapled anastomosis ( green arrow ); (B) balloon dilation; (C) deep tear without obvious perforation seen from endoscopy side ( yellow arrow ); (D) timely abdominal imaging reviewed bowel perforation resulting in proper endoscopic reintervention with endoclips.

The next critical time for the diagnosis of perforation follows the “30 min role” in the endoscopy recovery room. The index of suspicion should be raised if a patient has excessive pain and bloating, dyspnea, and chills. Stat abdominal imaging is indicated. The alarm for complication is not off even after the patient is discharged from the endoscopy suite. The patient should be closely monitored by him/her-self and family members for at least 24 h. Clear liquid diet is recommended, in case rescuing endoscopy is needed. Late-onset perforation can occur 1–4 days after the procedure, especially when the electrocauterization or electroincision is used. Therefore, patients should be advised to avoid NSAID or anticoagulants and strenuous physical activities for at least 5 days after the endoscopic procedure.

A plain abdominal X-ray is a quick way to diagnose perforation with demonstration of free air under the diaphragm. However, noncontrasted computed tomography (CT) scan is most sensitive modality for the detection of perforation, including demonstration retroperitoneal air which may be missed on plain abdominal radiograph ( Fig. 29.6 ). Another advantage of CT is to detect perforation to the mesentery sheath. For patients with chest pain and back pain who undergo distal large bowel procedure (such as distal rectal or distal ileal pouch stricture, fistula, sinus therapy), retroperitoneal air and pneumomediastinum from perforation is suspected CT chest along with CT abdomen/pelvis is a valuable tool for the diagnosis, although plain chest and abdominal X-ray may be helpful.

Figure 29.6

Appropriate diagnosis of endoscopic perforation. (A) The patient with a loop ileostomy; (B) stricture at 10 cm from stoma at fascia level, which is prone to fistula and stricture ( green arrow ); (C) the stricture on gastrografin enema via stoma ( green arrow ); (D and E) abdominal pain and distention after balloon dilation of the stricture prompted plain abdominal X-ray, which showed no perforation; (F) small quantify of extraluminal air ( red arrow ).

Classification of Endoscopic Perforation

Due to complex anatomy and various forms of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy in IBD, there is a wide spectrum of iatrogenic perforations in those patients. Iatrogenic, endoscopy-associated perforation can be classified, based on different criteria ( Table 29.2 ). There are correlations between the criteria. For example, the perforation from blunt trauma from the tip of endoscope or electroincision is often located at the endoscopy-treated site; perforation from the trauma from the shaft of looped endoscope is commonly seen at the segment of bowel distal to the endoscopy-treated area; and the perforation from the tip of forward-slippery balloon is usually seen at the bowel segment proximal to the endoscopy-treated area. There can be blunt trauma, unintended resection, dissection, excision, and thermal injury.

Table 29.2

Classification of IBD-Associated Perforation

Criteria Classification Subclassification Comments
Etiology Disease related Ulcerative colitis Fulminant colitis
Crohn’s disease Abscess or contained “perforation” far more often than free “perforation”
IBD postsurgical Spontaneous leak at the tip of the “J” in ileal pouch
Iatrogenic Diagnostic endoscopy Scope trauma of diagnostic colonoscopy, pouchoscopy, or ileoscopy
Therapeutic endoscopy Balloon dilation, polypectomy, stricturotomy, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) or submucosal dissection
Enterotomy during surgery Laparoscopic injury
Underlying disease Ulcerative colitis Inflammatory polyps, dysplastic lesions
Crohn’s disease Primary or anastomotic strictures, fistula, abscess
Ileal pouch disorders Pouchitis, pouch stricture, Crohn’s disease of the pouch, pouch-vaginal fistula
Mechanism Air Scope Over insufflation, especially room air
Barotrauma Scope Tip of shaft of the scope
Device Balloon tip, balloon body, catheter, injection needles, cold snare, misplaced over-the-scope clips
Thermal injury Hot snare, EMR or submucosal dissection, electroincision, electrocauterization
Onset Onsite During procedure The second look after the initial endoscopic therapy is helpful for the timely diagnosis; the “30 min” role of diagnosis and window period for endoscopic intervention
Early onset Within 24 h after procedure Endoscopic reintervention may be attempted, in the absence of peritonitis, abscess, or sepsis
Late onset After 24 h of procedure Often related to thermal injury or vigorous physical activity after procedure
Degree Subserosa perforation Intact serosa and no air leak
Full-thickness perforation without extravasation Often self-limited with conservative management;
Full-thickness perforation with extravasation of air, liquid, fecal materials Surgical intervention often needed
Full-thickness perforation with peritonitis, abscess, or sepsis Surgical intervention and likely diverting stoma needed
Size of perforation Small ≤1 cm The best candidate for rescuing endoscopic treatment
Medium 1–2 cm Surgery often needed
Large ≥2 cm Often seen in barotrauma from the scope shaft or esophagus perforation or EMR or submucosal dissection; surgery often needed
Perforation relevant to mesentery Mesenteric site Mesentery abscess, often requiring resection of a long segment of bowel
Antemesenteric site Free perforation, peritonitis, intraabdominal abscess
Location Nonendoscopy-treated area Nondiseased area Sigmoid colon perforation common; can be proximal or distal to the treated area
Diseased area Can be proximal or distal to the treated area
Surgery-altered area (suture line, anastomosis) Can be proximal or distal to the treated area
Endoscopy-treated area Polyp or mass Snare polypectomy, hot biopsy, EMR, or submucosal dissection
Stricture Balloon dilation, stricturostomy, sinusotomy
Fistula Fistulotomy
Sinus Sinusotomy
Consequences Acute Free air May be managed conservatively in patients, especially those with performed distal bowel and the presence of diverting ostomy
Peritonitis Surgical intervention needed
Abscess and sepsis Surgery with diverting stoma needed
Chronic Fistula Endoscopic fistulotomy may be attempted in selected patients
Sinus Candidate for endoscopic sinosotomy

Colonoscopic perforation has been classified into postpolypectomy syndrome, perforation without leak, perforation with air leak, perforation with fluid leak, and perforation with feces leak, based on the substance of leak; perforation, pneumoperitoneum, and peritonitis, based on the presence and degree of infection. Endoscopic clips and abdominal decompression may be used in patients with postpolypectomy syndrome, perforation with no leak, or perforation with air leak. Patients with air leak, fluid leak, or feces leak is preferably managed surgically.

The onset of perforation of endoscopy-associated perforation in general can occur: (1) <24 h; (2) 24–48 h and (3) >48 h after the procedure. In contrast, therapeutic (e.g., EBD) IBD-associated bowel perforation often occurs and identified within 24 h after the procedure and late-onset onset of perforation is not common. Air or barotrauma-associated perforation normally present earlier than heat-related perforation. This author would like to propose the classification of onset of perforation in IBD endoscopy into: (1) onset; (2) <24 h; and (3) >24 h ( Table 29.2 ).

The common location of endoscopy-associated perforation is different in IBD versus non-IBD patients. The sigmoid colon is the most common location of colonoscopic perforation in general. In contrast, the common locations of IBD-associated colonoscopic perforation vary greatly, largely depending on the location of endoscopic treatment, diseased segment, and surgery-altered segment ( Table 29.2 ).

The degree of peritoneal contamination is determined by multiple factors: (1) quality of bowel preparation; (2) size of perforation; (3) interval between perforation to salvage endoscopic or surgical procedure; (4) size and depth of perforation; and (5) status of underlying disease ( Table 29.2 ).

The depth of perforation in IBD can be up to subserosa, full-thickness perforation, free full-thickness perforation without spillage of fecal materials, full-thickness perforation with contained abscess, perforation with peritonitis ( Table 29.2 ).

Consequences of Endoscopic Perforation

There are scant publications on the adverse consequence of endoscopic perforation in IBD patients. We previously studied 84 IBD and non-IBD patients who had endoscopy-associated perforation and reported that 4 (6.9%) died, directly resulting from the procedure-related perforation; 55 (65.5%) had other PAC: 3 (3.5%) underwent total colectomy with diverting ileostomy, 28 (33.3%) had bowel resection, fecal diversion, and secondary anastomosis; and 24 (28.6%) had bowel resection with primary anastomosis. We demonstrated that patients who were taking systemic corticosteroids at the time of lower GI endoscopy had a 13-fold higher likelihood of having PAC (95% confidence interval: 1.3, 1839.7; P = .007). Therefore, endoscopy-associated perforation can bear serious consequences.

The adverse consequence of iatrogenic perforation from EBD can be different between the ones from mesentery side and antemesenteric site ( Fig. 29.7 ). The latter results in free perforation with possible peritonitis, while the former can lead to formation of abscess of the mesentery. Both conditions often require bowel resection. However, the extent and technical difficulty of bowel resection for the treatment of iatrogenic mesentery abscess is greater. Therefore, endoscopist would rather pick the “devil” (antemesentery perforation) than the “evil” (mesentery perforation), if he or she would have a choice. This may be an advantage of endoscopic stricturotomy over EBD, as the endoscopist can have a control of depth and location of electroincision. The endoscopist may be able to tell which side of stricture is the antemesentery site, i.e., opposite wall of linear ulcers, and choose the location to cut.

Dec 30, 2019 | Posted by in GASTROENTEROLOGY | Comments Off on Damage Control: Management of Procedure-Associated Complications

Full access? Get Clinical Tree

Get Clinical Tree app for offline access