I recently had a colonoscopy. Sixteen days later, I had a hospital stay of four days caused by intestinal bleeding. I received three pints of whole blood and six pints of plasma, all as a result of my colonoscopy. I have fully recovered with no after-effects, unless I have contracted some not-yet-apparent blood-borne disease. I am trusting that the Red Cross does a competent job of screening blood donations. I am telling this story to help anyone who experiences the same problem.
My Polyp Was the Flat Type
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are two types of colon polyps. The typical type resembles a small stalk of cauliflower that is easily snipped off. The other type is flat or even depressed. They are much more difficult to detect and remove. Some doctors receive specific training for this reason.
Johns Hopkins quotes a VA research group report stating that the flat type of polyps is five times more likely to be cancerous than the common type. The depressed type is even worse. One of my removed polyps was the flat type. I was informed later that it was necessary to use a surgical clamp to stop the bleeding. The clamp is designed to hold the wound closed until it is healed, and it ultimately comes off spontaneously.
My Coumadin Therapy Complicated the Situation
I take Coumadin because of a heart condition. It was necessary to stop the Coumadin to restore the natural clotting capability of my blood before any polyps could be safely removed. Following my doctor’s orders, I resumed the Coumadin five days later.
The colonoscopy information pamphlet states that complications can occur up to 15 days after the procedure. I began bleeding 16 days later. Evidently the surgical clamp had dislodged before the polyp was entirely healed. I had thought the main danger in colonoscopy is perforation of the bowel, which requires an immediate surgery and had not considered bleeding at a much later date.
I Began Receiving Blood, Plasma and Glucose
I went to the hospital and was immediately placed on a high fluid diet. I gave permission for any necessary blood transfusions. Having never received a blood transfusion, I was understandably nervous about doing so. The problem was that I probably would have died without it. I began receiving blood, plasma and glucose. I also received an injection of Vitamin K to increase the clotting ability of my blood. I felt fine and had no pain but was exceedingly unnerved.
A Hemoglobin Reading of 5.0 is Unnerving.
I was still bleeding during the night, and my hemoglobin reading dropped to 5.0 from a normal reading of about 12. I began to feel decidedly nervous and shaky. The nurse said that was normal.
My surgeon who performed the colonoscopy was sure that the dislodged surgical clamp was the problem. He scheduled surgery for the next morning to replace the clamp. The delay was necessary for me to receive the traditional colon cleansing to prepare for the procedure. The procedure was uneventful, and the bleeding was stopped by installing another surgical clamp on the wound.
I Maintained a Soft Diet for Three Weeks With a Happy Conclusion
I was instructed to have a soft diet for 24 hours. I disobeyed the doctor’s instructions and maintained a soft diet for about three weeks. My reasoning was that a diet high in roughage, especially raw vegetables, was much more likely to dislodge the surgical clamp. This time I healed totally.
I do not blame my doctor. Ultimately, he saved my life. He is human, and accidents happen. I will still have a colonoscopy when recommended because it is the best means of preventing colon cancer. The next time I will do one thing differently. I will ask if the doctor used a surgical clamp. If so, I will stay on a soft diet much longer than one day. My reasoning is that a soft diet will substantially reduce the likelihood of a return to the hospital.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not the purpose of this article to give professional advice. I am only relating my opinions and experiences and my opinions could be wrong. Any actions you take or do not take as a result of reading this article, you take at your own risk. Always seek advice from a doctor or health care professional before making any health care decisions.
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“Flat Colon Lesions: Cause for Concern?”/Johns Hopkins Medicine