Colonoscopy-Related Mortality in a Fecal Immunochemical Test–Based Colorectal Cancer Screening Program

Arthur I. Kooyker*, Esther Toes-Zoutendijk, Annemieke W.J. Opstal-van Winden, Maaike Buskermolen, Hanneke J. van Vuuren, Ernst J. Kuipers, Folkert J. van Kemenade, Chris Ramakers, Evelien Dekker, Iris D. Nagtegaal, Harry J. de Koning, Manon C.W. Spaander, Iris Lansdorp-Vogelaar, Monique E. van Leerdam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background & 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1418-1425
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


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