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Adverse Event Fatalities Related to GI Endoscopy

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Death after endoscopy is rare, under-reported, and has variable causes. This study aimed to evaluate the incidence and causes of fatal endoscopic adverse events (AEs) across two academic medical centers and to identify patient-, procedure-, and sedation-related risk factors.


This is a retrospective cohort study of fatal adverse events causally related to endoscopy at Denver Health Medical Center and the University of Colorado Hospital from 2011 to 2020. Fatal AEs were retrieved from the physician-reported database. Electronic medical records were then reviewed to determine medical history, procedure details, subsequent treatments, and time and cause of death.


From January 2011 to January 2020, 146,010 GI endoscopy procedures were performed. Median patient age was 70 [51–78] and 57% were male. Thirty-one deaths were identified, 28 of which were attributed to endoscopy, yielding a procedure-related fatality rate of 0.018%. Procedures included 11 EGDs, one colonoscopy, two flexible sigmoidoscopies, six ERCPs, seven upper EUS, and one PEG-J tube placement. Specific causes of death included aspiration in four patients (14%); cardiac arrest or myocardial infarction in seven patients (25%); perforation in nine patients (32%); bleeding in four patients (14%); cholangitis or sepsis without perforation in three patients (11%); and acute pancreatitis in one patient (3.6%).


Fatal endoscopic AEs were rare but tended to occur in older patients with major comorbidities. Most deaths occurred from aspiration pneumonia, cardiac arrest, or perforation-related sepsis within 1 week of the procedure.

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This study received no internal or external funding.

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Correspondence to Augustin Attwell.

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Swei, E., Heller, J.C., Scott, F. et al. Adverse Event Fatalities Related to GI Endoscopy. Dig Dis Sci 67, 1753–1760 (2022).

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