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Cancer. 2013 May 15;119(10):1800-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.27990. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Use of colonoscopy for polyp surveillance in Medicare beneficiaries.

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Division of Gastroenterology, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cleveland, Ohio.



Professional society guidelines recommend follow-up colonoscopy for patients with resected colonic adenomas. However, adherence to guideline recommendations in routine clinical practice has not been well characterized.


The authors used a population-based sample of Medicare beneficiaries to identify all patients aged ≥70 years who had a claim for colonoscopy with polypectomy or hot biopsy during the period from 2001 to 2004. Medicare claims through 2009 identified colonoscopy within the following 5 years as well as fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, and barium enema.


In total, 12,771 patients were included. At 5 years, 45.7% of patients underwent another colonoscopy, and 32.3% of procedures included a polypectomy. The rates of fecal occult blood testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and barium enema at 5 years were 54%, 3.8%, and 2.9%, respectively. There was a marked decrease in repeat colonoscopy at 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years with more recent years of index procedures. Other predictors of undergoing repeat colonoscopy were younger age, African American race, and a colonoscopy before the index examination. There was no association with physician specialty. The decreasing use of colonoscopy with time was maintained in a multivariable analysis.


In a sample of elderly Medicare beneficiaries, there was under use of follow-up colonoscopy at 5 years after polypectomy, and <50% of patients received a repeat examination. In particular, the use of this procedure decreased over the 4-year study period. Coupled with other data indicating the overuse of follow-up colonoscopy in patients without polyps, there appeared to be significant discordance between guidelines and actual practice.

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