Colonoscopy deaths from propofol

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Around 180 people die each year during a gastrointestinal or colonoscopy due to the propofol anesthetic

Every year up to 180 people in Germany die during a colonoscopy due to the consequences of the use of the anesthetic propofol. This was the result of an evaluation by the Medical University in Hanover (MHH).

In many cases, patients with an unpleasant colonoscopy want a strong sedation in order to feel nothing of the examination. With an appropriate dosage, conscious perception is virtually eliminated. The patient can no longer remember the reflection after the procedure. During the examination, the patient is in a kind of trance and can follow the instructions of the doctors. The anesthetic propofol is often used. According to a study by the Hannover Medical School (MHH), however, there are always undesirable side effects that sometimes lead to the patient's death. According to the study results, propofol causes several deaths per year in gastrointestinal surgery. Out of 10,000 investigations carried out using Propofol, around 3 patients die each year. Adding up the total number results in an annual death rate of around 180 patients.

Side effects of propofol
Possible side effects of the drug may include a sudden drop in blood pressure (due to reduced peripheral vascular resistance), muscle cramps and slower breathing. Arousal phenomena and allergic reactions were also observed. Some patients report so-called “bad trips”, in which bad dreams are presented as “real experiences” afterwards. In very rare cases and with a longer period of use, there can be severe metabolic derangements with disorders of the cardiovascular system. Doctors also report possible muscle cramps and the so-called "Propofol Infusion Syndrome (PRIS)".

The anesthesiologist and medical expert explained to the news magazine "FOCUS" med. Uwe Schulte-Sasse that propofol in some cases leads to the patient becoming unconscious. The presence of a second doctor would be essential. In such cases, gastrointestinal mirroring must be stopped and the patient stabilized.

The anesthetic is a topic in public again and again because, for example, pop star Michael Jackson died of an overdose of the agent. Jackson's personal physician had given the anesthetic to reduce sleep disorders. The controversial doctor Mechthild Bach sued herself by overdosing. The agent is only approved for clinical use. (sb)

Also read:
Colonoscopies reduce the risk of cancer
Colon cancer avoided through colonoscopy
New diagnostic procedure for small bowel bleeding

Image: Maria Lanznaster /

Author and source information

Video: My Surgery thru #googleglass: Propofol makes you say the funniest things!


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