Is the risk of your colon catching fire real? Has it ever happened? Just curious.

Why is it so important to have a clean colon?

A clean colon will allow the doctor to carefully examine all of your colon and remove or treat or biopsy any small or flat polyps. If areas of your colon are not completely clean, small areas may be missed which could potentially have pre-cancerous polyps or tumors. Also, if large sections of the colon are unclean then methane gas may still be in the colon. This can be dangerous because electricity is often used to treat polyps.

Source: Gastroenterology Practice Associates FAQ


Yes, methane and hydrogen can explode during colonoscopic polyp removal.

Yes, this has really happened.

However, cleaning the colon is not necessarily sufficient to prevent such explosion.

See Fatal colonic explosion during colonoscopic polypectomy, Gastroenterology (1979) vol. 77, pages 1307-10.

The colon appeared very clean and contained no fecal matter...there was an explosion which was audible in the endoscopy room, the patient jerked upwards off the endoscopy table, and the colonoscope was completely ejected. The patient was immediately transferred to the operating theater, and laparotomy was carried out 15 min after explosion. Immediately on opening the abdomen a hemoperitoneum was visible. There was no fecal matter in the abdomen. Examination of the colon showed numerous full-thickness lacerations in the right colon and the transverse colon as far as the splenic flexure. There were multiple bleeding points around these perforations. In addition the spleen was found to have numerous capsular lacerations. An extended right hemicolectomy was carried out to include the right colon, the transverse colon, and the splenic flexure. Massive blood transfusion was continued during the whole procedure; the patient received 45 units of blood. Multiple bleeding points occurred in all areas of dissection (right flank, left hypochondrium, and the pancreatic region), and it proved impossible to achieve hemostasis. There was presumably a serious coagulation defect as a result of the multiple transfusions, and the surgeon closed the abdomen after packing the abdomen. Death occurred a few minutes later.

  • 1
    Wow. So what's the precaution? Can they test for Methane / Hydrogen inside? Aug 2 '16 at 14:26
  • 1
    @curious_cat basically, the colon should be cleaned but not using mannitol or sorbitol. Clean with polyethylene glycol electrolyte lavage solution (PEG-ELS) and oral sodium phosphate (NaP) solutions.
    – DavePhD
    Aug 2 '16 at 14:33
  • 1
    @curious_cat E. coli bacteria can create methane from mannitol.
    – DavePhD
    Aug 2 '16 at 15:44
  • 3
    +1 Lol, that is some sweet nightmare fuel! I think I had an existential crisis reading the quote. Aug 3 '16 at 3:45
  • 3
    I think we need an 'Ouch!' button next to up and down-votes!
    – Benjol
    Aug 4 '16 at 8:52

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