What is the role of urgent colonoscopy in the diagnosis of lower gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding (LGIB)?

Updated: Jul 26, 2019
  • Author: Burt Cagir, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Urgent colonoscopy has become the first choice of diagnostic modality following rapid purge with volume cathartics, such as GoLYTELY. Jensen and Machicado prospectively evaluated the role of urgent colonoscopy after purge in 80 consecutive patients with severe hematochezia and noted 74% of patients had colonic lesions, 11% had upper GI lesions, and 9% had presumed small bowel lesions; in 6%, no bleeding site was identified. [43] Although the investigators recommended that esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) be performed before urgent colonoscopy, upper and lower endoscopies can be performed simultaneously.

In another study, urgent colonoscopy yielded a diagnosis in 90% of the patients, which provided an opportunity for therapy at the same time. The patients who underwent urgent colonoscopic evaluation had a significantly shorter hospital stay. One can perform the urgent colonoscopy in the operating room or endoscopy suite in hemodynamically stable patients. If patients become unstable or colonoscopy reveals an active fulminant inflammation, the procedure should be aborted.

Urgent colonoscopy tends to result in improved patient outcomes. In patients who are hemodynamically stable with moderate to severe bleeding, diagnostic urgent colonoscopy is the test of choice, because of its higher diagnostic yield and lower complication rate as compared with CTA. [43, 44] The 2009 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommendations on diverticular bleeding emphasized that urgent colonoscopy in the context of LGIB is safe. [27] However, note that although urgent colonoscopy may improve the diagnostic and therapeutic yield, there is no evidence that it has led to a reduction in rates of rebleeding or surgery. [5]

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