Colorectal Cancer

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Aug 7:S1542-3565(20)31076-4. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2020.07.066. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Many countries have introduced colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programs with fecal immunochemical tests (FITs), and follow-up colonoscopies for individuals with a positive FIT result. In order to make an informed decision to participate, individuals must be informed about the benefits and harms of FIT-based screening and subsequent colonoscopy. Colonoscopy-related fatal complications in FIT-based screening are understudied. We aimed to estimate the colonoscopy-related mortality in a national FIT-based CRC screening program.

METHODS: Colonoscopy-related mortality within 30 days after colonoscopy was assessed by analysis of data from national endoscopy complication databases in the Netherlands, determining the excess 30-day rate of death in FIT-positive individuals undergoing colonoscopy vs FIT-negative individuals (based on data from the national screening database), and determining the rate of likely colonoscopy-related deaths based on registered causes of death by the Statistics Netherlands.

RESULTS: Between October 2013 and December 2017, 172,797 participants underwent colonoscopy after a positive result from a FIT in the Dutch national CRC screening program; 13,848 participants received a diagnosis of CRC. The reported fatal complication rate was 0.23 per 10,000 FIT-positive participants (or 1 per 43,199; 95%CI: 0.090 - 0.60) undergoing colonoscopy, whereas this was 0.91 per 10,000 FIT-positive participants (or 1 per 10,961; 95%CI: 0.44 - 1.38) according to the excess death rate. Likely colonoscopy-related causes of death were reported in 0.86 per 10,000 FIT-positive participants (or 1 per 11,236; 95%CI: 0.48 - 1.63) who underwent colonoscopy, of which 50% considered cardiovascular events.

CONCLUSIONS: Colonoscopy-related mortality within the Dutch FIT-based CRC screening program was estimated to range from 0.23 to 0.91 per 10,000 FIT-positive participants undergoing colonoscopy. These findings indicate underreporting of fatal complications in registries and a noteworthy incidence of fatal cardiovascular adverse events that requires further investigation. Nevertheless, the harm of FIT-based CRC screening is vastly outweighed by the benefits.