A case report of iatrogenic gas gangrene post colonoscopy successfully treated with conservative management- is surgery always necessary?

Fairley, Lachlan J., Smith, Samuel L., and Fairley, Stephen K. (2020) A case report of iatrogenic gas gangrene post colonoscopy successfully treated with conservative management- is surgery always necessary? BMC Gastroenterology, 20. 163.

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Background: Colonoscopy is a routine procedure in diagnosis and treatment of colonic disease. While generally regarded as a safe procedure, potentially fatal complications can occur. Gas gangrene is one such complication, with very high mortality. There are few cases of gas gangrene occurring after colonoscopy, making it one of the rarer complications of this procedure. There have been no previously reported cases of a patient surviving such an infection and the optimal treatment strategy is contentious. This report describes a case of intramural gas gangrene of the colon, treated conservatively with antibiotic therapy in which the patient survived with full recovery.

Case presentation: A 71-year-old, previously healthy male presented 6 h post apparently uncomplicated colonoscopic polypectomy with rigors, nausea, vomiting and right upper quadrant pain. At presentation he was febrile at 40.1 °C but hemodynamically stable. Abdominal computed tomography revealed substantial colonic thickening and several focal intramural gas bubbles (pneumatosis intestinalis) surrounding the polypectomy site. Within 24 h post procedure he became hypotensive and was admitted to ICU in frank septic shock requiring inotropes, and with demonstrable septic myocardial depression. Bloods showed multi-organ derangement with leukocytosis, lactic acidosis, haemolytic anaemia and hyperbilirubinemia. A diagnosis of presumed Clostridial gas gangrene was made, and treatment was initiated with benzylpenicillin, clindamycin, metronidazole and vancomycin. After 4 days in ICU he was stepped down, and discharged after a further 10 days with no surgical or endoscopic interventions. At three-month review he reported being back to full health.

Conclusions: This case demonstrates that gas gangrene infection is a possible complication of colonoscopic polypectomy. This is a cause of rapid deterioration in post-colonoscopy patients and has been misdiagnosed as colonic perforation in previously reported cases of retroperitoneal gas gangrene. Such misdiagnosis delays antibiotic therapy, which likely plays a role in the high mortality of this condition. Early diagnosis and initiation of antibiotic therapy with benzylpenicillin and clindamycin as seen in this case is essential for patient survival. While surgery is typically performed, non-operative management of pneumatosis intestinalis, and potentially gas gangrene is becoming more common and was utilized effectively in this patient.

Item ID: 63366
Item Type: Article (Case Study)
ISSN: 1471-230X
Keywords: Colonoscopy ; Clostridium infections ; Gas gangrene ; Intestinal disease ; Conservative treatment ; Treatment outcomes ; Postoperative complications ; Case report
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Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2020 00:31
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1103 Clinical Sciences > 110307 Gastroenterology and Hepatology @ 70%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1103 Clinical Sciences > 110309 Infectious Diseases @ 30%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920105 Digestive System Disorders @ 60%
92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920109 Infectious Diseases @ 40%
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