When Mrs. P. was diagnosed with a large polyp during a screening colonoscopy, she was told that surgery may be necessary to remove a section of her colon that included the polyp. As a retired school teacher who loved to travel and spend time outdoors, she was concerned that the projected recovery from surgery would prevent her from enjoying a good portion of the summer. Her daughter urged her to get a second opinion, and after some research, they found a possible alternative. A clinician in a nearby city could remove the polyp while preserving the colon without open surgery. This incisionless treatment would involve the use of an endoscope and specialized instrumentation.
Endolumenal interventional therapies provide access to and enable treatment of intestinal diseases through the anus rather than through surgical incisions. These procedures usually result in, at most, an overnight stay and a return to normal activity after a couple days. After meeting with the clinician, Mrs. P. considered her options. She was told that while the non-surgical approach was safe, minor complications could include bowel perforation and bleeding. She may also have to return for a second procedure several months later to ensure that all the polyp tissue was removed. Finally, though unlikely, should cancer be found in the resected specimen, she may ultimately have to return to the hospital and undergo a surgical resection. After discussing these options with her family, she opted for the incisionless alternative to surgery.
She had the procedure a few weeks later, and was able to return home after just an overnight stay at the hospital. By the end of the week, she was back to her normal hiking and biking routine and was planning a summer beach vacation with her family.
Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of patients diagnosed with benign polyps have colon surgery. Surgery, while generally safe, typically involves a four-to six-day hospital stay and six to eight weeks of recovery. Potential complications, which can be severe, include wound site infection and anastomotic leaks in which bowel contents spill into the abdominal cavity. While many of these complications can be managed conservatively, they can lengthen hospital stays and result in hospital readmissions and much longer recovery times. Like any medical procedure, endolumenal therapy of the colon has some risk of complications, but they are generally minor. Recovery time is short, with a return to normal activity generally taking only a couple days.