February 18th, 2009
Sedation-Free Colonoscopy: Why Isn’t It the Standard?
This Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured an intriguing article on sedation-free colonoscopy, which is standard in Europe and Asia but rarely done in the U.S. One could argue that Americans are just “weenies,” but I think the blame rests solely with us doctors.
Sedation-free colonoscopy is successful in most who try it (I did!), but it does require a more careful exam to ensure that patients are comfortable. Over-distension, looping, and other problems that can cause pain must be avoided, and that means the doctor must spend more time and perform more maneuvers during each procedure. And therein lies the rub. Even though sedation-free colonoscopy is safer and cheaper for patients, most gastroenterologists already feel rushed when they see patients and don’t want to take the time to even broach the subject of sedation-free colonoscopy, let alone actually perform it.
What’s my recommendation? Discuss the availability and benefits of sedation-free colonoscopy with all your patients, and let’s let Americans know to ask for it. It’s a better way to get the exam — and you can even drive yourself home that day!