Q.Recently, I’ve had a lot of “rumbling” in my intestines, so I went to a gastroenterologist and had sigmoidoscopy done. The scope didn’t find anything unusual. However, the same day the test was done, I started having cramps and bloody diarrhea. I went to a different doctor and he did the test again. He said I had colitis and that I must have gotten it from the first scope. He explained that there is a rare type of colitis that occurs when the chemicals that are used to clean the scope come in contact with the colon. Is this true?

A.Colitis refers to the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Patients with colitis often experience bloody diarrhea because of the ulcers and deteriorating tissue found within the colon. Several causes for colitis exist. These include inflammatory bowel disease, certain bacterial or parasitic infections, poor blood flow to the colon, complications of radiation therapy to the abdomen and side effects of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

A. Although it is an unusual cause of colitis, the medical literature does contain several accounts of colitis caused by endoscope-cleaning solutions. This probably occurs because the solution has not been completely flushed out of the tube-like endoscope instrument during the cleaning process.

Usually, machines are used to wash the endoscopes, and it could be that a malfunction in this automated system leads to the problem. In most cases, the colitis that results is mild and goes away on its own with time.

It is important to follow up with your doctor to ensure that your colitis does indeed resolve on its own. If it does not, then it may be caused by one of the other factors mentioned. You should also call the doctor who performed the first endoscopy to let him know of the findings. If your colitis is in fact due to the endoscope-cleaning chemicals, then the machine used to clean the scopes should be checked immediately.