Early Disease Detection

More Patients Opting for Painless Colonoscopies

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicates that a number of people are opting for unnecessary sedation when undergoing colonoscopies – and are paying for unnecessary costs that go with it.

Unnecessary sedation is costing patients nearly $1 billion a year in health care costs. In addition, most of the patients who make use of anesthesiologists for monitoring sedation are low-risk patients, who do not really need extra help.

Dr. Soeren Mattke, a senior Rand Corp. scientist and study author, shared: “These services are not harming patients. They’re basically giving them a luxury that is not strictly necessary.” The study authors shared further: “that matters because policymakers are trying to rein in rising medical costs.”

When undergoing colonoscopies, patients are usually sedated briefly, and there are certain types of sedation that need to be monitored. One of the drugs used for sedation is propofol, the drug which is said to have caused the death of pop star Michael Jackson. It is a powerful drug that is injected in order to bring about deep sedation.

Sedation under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, using propofol or otherwise, is recommended for high-patients. This includes patients who are old or sick, or those who previously suffered complications with anesthesia.

The study included an analysis of insurance claims data of more than 6 million adults, who underwent colon exams or imaging scopes of the upper digestive tract, between 2003 and 2009.

At the start of the study, 14 percent of the tests included an anesthesiologist; by year 2009, the percentage has increased to more than 30 percent. The extra treatment meant an extra $500 to the bill of an insured patient, and $150 to a Medicare bill.

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