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Colonoscopy Leads to Appendicitis

Are you looking forward to getting your next colonoscopy? Isn’t it amazing how quickly those five to ten years between procedures can pass? If you’re like most, you’re trying to stretch the time between screenings a bit longer. And you’ll probably be even more inclined to do so once we share the latest news with you. It turns out, that having a colonoscopy can increase your risk of having surgery shortly after the procedure is complete – and the surgery won’t be on your colon.

A doctor and researcher at the University of North Dakota, Dr. Marc Basson, has picked an unusual part of the body to focus his studies on: the appendix. And he noticed that several of his patients had an interesting complaint: after they’d undergone a colonoscopy (from a number of different doctors), they suffered from appendicitis, occasionally within just a few days of the screening. Dr. Basson wondered if this was just a strange coincidence or if there was a true correlation. So he gathered a research team to find out.

For a study ultimately published in the journal JAMA Surgery, the researchers analyzed data gathered from nearly 400,000 veterans who had undergone colonoscopies between January 2009 and June 2014. Because the veterans’ healthcare data was tracked through the US government, the researchers were able to see how many of them experienced appendicitis shortly after their colonoscopies.

Sure enough, rates of appendicitis and appendectomies went up fourfold in the first week following colonoscopies compared to the 51 weeks after that. And since different providers code procedures in various ways, the researchers believe the true increase could be as much as 12-fold. The researchers don’t yet know why this connection exists, but it’s clear that it does! It’s possible that the bowel preparation process alters the bacteria in the colon in a way that causes the appendix to become inflamed or that the air pressure required for the procedure affects the appendix.