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Ann Fam Med. 2005 Mar-Apr;3(2):122-5.

Outpatient colonoscopy by rural family physicians.

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Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27834, USA.



Five percent of family physicians offer colonoscopy services, either in the office or the hospital, often in rural areas that have no gastroenterologist. Two previous large series have shown the quality and safety of colonoscopy performed by family physicians. The purpose of this study was to verify these findings in an outpatient setting, as well as to obtain patient satisfaction data.


Data were obtained from 731 colonoscopies performed between 1996 and 2001 in a rural Virginia family practice. These data included patients' age and sex, indications for the procedure, drug dosages for sedation, cecal intubation rates, pathologic findings, complications, and referral correlation findings compared with the original examination. A patient satisfaction survey was done.


The adenoma detection rate was 27.2% for men and 21.4% for women older than age 50 years. Six adenocarcinomas and 5 large (>2 cm) villous adenomas were detected, and the patients were referred for definitive surgical resection. A total of 29 patients (4%) were referred: 10 to colorectal surgery and 19 to gastroenterology for resection of large polyps. Correlation of findings at referral with the initial examination was excellent. Cecal intubation rates increased from 89.5% from 1996-1998 to 94.6% from 1999-2001. Minor sedation complications occurred in 5 cases (<1%), and patients responded to supportive care. A high degree of satisfaction was reported by patients, with a mean satisfaction score of 8.8 on a scale from 1 to 10.


Colonoscopy can be performed safely and competently by properly trained family physicians in an outpatient setting with a high degree of patient satisfaction.

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