A better way to repair a colonoscopy mishap

Published: Dec. 21, 2016 at 8:52 AM EST
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(12/21/2016) -- It’s the life-saving screening test that fifty somethings dread. A colonoscopy can detect polyps in the colon, but in less than one in every 1,000 cases, there is a serious side effect, the scope pierces through the organ. In some patients, the risk is higher. Now doctors are now able to fix the damage from the inside, saving patients from major surgery.

Sixty-one-year-old Geraldine Barber and her husband, Richard, are poised to retire and they’ve been restoring a 19th century southern home in the Carolinas.

“We’re ready to start the next chapter in our lives together,” Geraldine said.

That almost didn’t happen. Two years ago Geraldine went in for a routine colonoscopy. She then woke up in the recovery room with nurses and doctors everywhere.

Geraldine described, “I said to myself oh gosh something bad has happened to somebody. There’s an emergency. Never thinking the emergency was me. They explained that my colon was so thin and not in very good shape so that when the doctor went in with the scope to do it, he went in a certain way and went right though.”

In the rare instances where the colon is perforated, surgery is the only option and time is critical.

Sergey Kantsevoy, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, said, “The patient needs to go to operating room, operating room needs to be prepared and during all this time, the contents of the colon are leaking into the abdomen.”

Dr. Kantsevoy is the first surgeon in the United States to fix colon tears from the inside. Using a specialized endoscopic suturing tool, he carefully stitches the opening providing a permanent fix.

Geraldine said the procedure saved her life and allowed her to reach retirement, without health complications.

Dr. Kantsevoy studied other methods of closing the perforations and found that endoscopic suturing was the most effective. He also said the suturing saves thousands of dollars. On average, the cost of fixing a colon perforation with traditional surgery is about $25,000 to $30,000.