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Gastrointest Endosc. 2002 Aug;56(2):195-201.

The variable stiffness colonoscope: assessment of efficacy by magnetic endoscope imaging.

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Wolfson Unit for Endoscopy, St. Mark's Hospital, Middlesex, London, United Kingdom.



Variable-stiffness colonoscopes combine the flexibility of pediatric instruments for negotiation of the sigmoid colon with the ability to stiffen the insertion tube to prevent or control looping after straightening. Previous studies have found wide variation in the efficacy of the stiffening mechanism. Thus, two studies were conducted to assess the potential benefit of the stiffening device and its optimal use.


In study 1, the effect of routinely stiffening the straightened variable-stiffness colonoscopes in the mid-descending colon was determined in 82 patients. Two insertions were performed (mid-descending colon to cecum) in each patient with and without application of the stiffening device (randomized). The time to negotiate the proximal colon (mid-descending to cecum), time to pass the variable-stiffness colonoscopes across the splenic flexure into the transverse colon, time to pass the right colon, and ancillary maneuvers used were recorded for each insertion. In study 2, consecutive patients, excluding any with previous colonic resection, were examined by using standard adult variable-stiffness colonoscopes. Real-time views of the procedure with magnetic endoscope imaging were recorded for all examinations, but procedures were randomized to be done either with (n = 88), or without (n = 87) the endoscopist viewing the magnetic endoscope imaging display. Whenever stiffening was applied, the anatomic location of the colonoscope tip and stiffness efficacy were recorded.


In study 1, time taken to negotiate the proximal colon (p = 0.0041) and time to negotiate the splenic flexure (p = 0.006) were significantly shorter and ancillary maneuvers performed were fewer (p = 0.0014) with the stiffening device activated. In study 2, stiffening was used with similar frequency in patients examined with and without the magnetic endoscope imaging view, most commonly for passing the splenic flexure (71%), but also in the transverse colon (12%), right colon (9%), and sigmoid/descending colon (8%). Stiffening was significantly more effective when used in combination with magnetic endoscope imaging (69% with imager vs. 45% without imager; p = 0.0102).


Overall, the variable-stiffness device used was effective in controlling looping 57% of the time. Activating maximum stiffness appears to be effective once the sigmoid colon has been negotiated and the colonoscope straightened with the tip in the proximal colon, reducing the number of ancillary maneuvers and shortening the insertion time through the proximal colon. Routine magnetic endoscope imaging further enhances the efficacy of the variable-stiffness colonoscopes by helping to identify the optimal time for stiffening.

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