Endoscopy, the diagnostic test, is killing one in 2,000 patients. This alarming situation has come to light only because a special audit has been carried out to look into the longer-term effects of the technique.
The study discovered that patients were dying up to 30 days after the test occurred, usually from heart or breathing complications.
Up to now, these longer-term effects following endoscopy have never been recorded, simply because the procedures have not identified death happening so long after a seemingly routine test.
Complications are occurring because the test requires the patient to be sedated, which means the patient can still respond but cannot feel any pain. However, it is a fine distinction between sedation and anesthesia, when the patient is unconscious. The patient has to be carefully and constantly monitored; inadequate monitoring is the cause of 20 per cent of all deaths related to anesthesia (Gut, 1995; 36: 462-7).