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Ann Fam Med. 2009 Jan-Feb;7(1):56-62. doi: 10.1370/afm.939.

Screening colonoscopies by primary care physicians: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia 30912, USA.

Erratum in

  • Ann Fam Med. 2009 Mar-Apr;7(2):181.



There is currently too few endoscopists to enact a national colorectal cancer screening program with colonoscopy. Primary care physicians could play an important role in filling this shortage by offering screening colonoscopy in their practice. The purpose of this study was to examine the safety and effectiveness of colonoscopies performed by primary care physicians.


We identified relevant articles through searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE bibliographic databases to December 2007 and through manual searches of bibliographies of each citation. We found 590 articles, 12 of which met inclusion criteria. Two authors independently abstracted data on study and patient characteristics. Descriptive statistics were performed. For each outcome measure, a random effects model was used to determine estimated means and confidence intervals.


We analyzed 12 studies of colonoscopies performed by primary care physicians, which included 18,292 patients (mean age 59 years, 50.5% women). The mean estimated adenoma and adenocarcinoma detection rates were 28.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 20.4%-39.3%) and 1.7% (95% CI, 0.9%-3.0%), respectively. The mean estimated reach-the-cecum rate was 89.2% (95% CI, 80.1%-94.4%). The major complication rate was 0.04% (95% CI, 0.01%-0.07%); no deaths were reported.


Colonoscopies performed by primary care physicians have quality, safety, and efficacy indicators that are comparable to those recommended by the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons. Based on these results, colonoscopy screening by primary care physicians appears to be safe and effective.

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