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Colonoscopy Risks to Keep in Mind

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Colonoscopy is a widely used medical procedure that allows healthcare providers to examine the lining of the colon and rectum. It is an invaluable tool for diagnosing various gastrointestinal conditions, including colorectal cancer and polyps. While colonoscopy is generally safe and well-tolerated, like any medical procedure, it carries certain risks and potential complications.

In this article, we will explore the risks associated with colonoscopy, emphasizing the importance of informed consent and open communication between patients and healthcare providers. Additionally, we will briefly touch on the cost of colonoscopy in Singapore.

Colonoscopy Overview

Colonoscopy is a procedure that involves the insertion of a long, flexible tube with a camera and light source (colonoscope) into the rectum to visualize the entire colon. It allows for the detection and removal of polyps, the evaluation of gastrointestinal symptoms, and screening for colorectal cancer.

Importance of Colonoscopy

Regular colonoscopy screenings are essential for early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, which is one of the most common and deadly cancers worldwide. Detecting and removing precancerous polyps during the procedure can significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Common Risks and Complications

  • Bleeding. One of the most common risks associated with colonoscopy is bleeding, particularly if a polyp is removed during the procedure. While most cases involve minor bleeding that stops on its own, there is a small risk of severe bleeding that may require additional intervention.
  • Perforation. Perforation, or the creation of a hole in the colon wall, is a rare but serious complication. It can occur when the colonoscope is passed through the colon or during polyp removal. Perforation requires immediate surgical repair.
  • Infection. Infection is a potential risk, although it is uncommon. The insertion of the colonoscope can introduce bacteria into the colon, leading to infection. Providers take precautions to minimize this risk.
  • Reaction to Medications. Sedatives and anesthesia medications are used during colonoscopy to keep patients comfortable and relaxed. Some individuals may have adverse reactions to these medications, including allergies or side effects like nausea and vomiting.
  • Abdominal Pain and Discomfort. It is common to experience mild abdominal discomfort, gas, or bloating after a colonoscopy. These symptoms usually resolve within a short time. However, some individuals may experience more prolonged discomfort.

Factors Affecting Risk

  • Age. The risk of complications tends to increase with age. Older individuals may have more fragile tissues and underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications.
  • Health Conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, can increase the risk of complications during colonoscopy. It is crucial to inform your healthcare provider of any preexisting conditions.
  • Medications. Some medications, particularly blood thinners or anticoagulants, can elevate the risk of bleeding during and after colonoscopy. Healthcare providers may advise adjusting medication schedules before the procedure.
  • Polyp Size and Number. The size and number of polyps detected during colonoscopy can influence the risk of complications. Larger or numerous polyps may increase the likelihood of bleeding or the need for more extensive polyp removal.
  • Experience of the Endoscopist. The experience and skill of the endoscopist performing the procedure can significantly affect the risk of complications. Experienced practitioners are more adept at minimizing risks.

Risk Mitigation and Preparation

  • Informed Consent. Before undergoing a colonoscopy, patients should receive detailed information about the procedure, its potential risks, and alternatives. Informed consent is essential to ensure patients understand and accept the associated risks.
  • Medication Review. Patients should provide a complete list of their medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, to their healthcare provider before the procedure. Adjustments may be necessary for medications that increase bleeding risk.
  • Provider Communication. Open and honest communication with the healthcare provider is vital. Patients should discuss any concerns or questions they have about the procedure, including their individual risk factors.
  • Follow Preoperative Instructions. Patients should adhere to all preoperative instructions provided by their healthcare provider. This may include dietary restrictions, bowel preparation, and medication adjustments.
  • Choose an Experienced Endoscopist. Whenever possible, patients should choose an experienced endoscopist to perform the procedure, especially one whom they are most comfortable with. Experienced practitioners are more likely to minimize risks and complications.

Colonoscopy Cost in Singapore

In Singapore, the cost of a colonoscopy can vary depending on several factors, including the healthcare facility, the specific type of colonoscopy (screening or diagnostic), and whether it is performed by a public or private healthcare provider.

  • Public Healthcare Facilities. Colonoscopy procedures conducted in public hospitals or government-subsidized clinics in Singapore are typically more affordable than those in private healthcare settings. Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents may also be eligible for subsidies.
  • Private Healthcare Facilities. The cost of colonoscopy at private hospitals or clinics in Singapore is often higher than at public facilities. However, patients may benefit from shorter waiting times and a more personalized experience.
  • Insurance Coverage. Health insurance plans in Singapore may cover some or all of the costs associated with colonoscopy, depending on the policy. Patients are advised to check their insurance coverage and understand any out-of-pocket expenses they may incur.


Colonoscopy is a valuable and effective procedure for the diagnosis and prevention of gastrointestinal conditions, particularly colorectal cancer and polyps. While it is generally safe, it is essential for patients to be aware of the potential risks and complications associated with colonoscopy. Open communication with healthcare providers, informed consent, and adherence to preoperative instructions can help mitigate these risks.

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