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Penn research offers road map to safer pain control, cost savings during colonoscopies
Date:3/11/2008

(PHILADELPHIA) At a time when several U.S. health insurers have discontinued payment for use of the sedative propofol during most screening colonoscopies, physicians at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered that an alternative way to administer the drug could both save millions of health care dollars and provide a safer way to deliver optimal pain relief.

The researchers studied two groups of patients who received patient-controlled sedation administered themselves with the push of a button during their colonoscopy. One group received a combination of the sedatives propofol and remifentanil, while the other received the drugs midazolam and fentanyl. Those in the propofol arm took only about half as long to be sedated, were able to walk quicker after the procedure, and spent much less time in the recovery room.

The findings, published in the February issue of the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, shed additional light on Aetna, Humana and other large health insurers recent decisions to discontinue payment for the use of the sedative propofol during most routine colonoscopies, because it generally requires an anesthesiologist to be present to monitor for adverse reactions during the procedure. Their involvement adds several hundred dollars to the cost of the procedure, but without insurance coverage for this popular pain relief choice, physicians worry that more patients will avoid the lifesaving test, which detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps. Last year, 55,000 Americans died of colorectal cancer, making it the nations second-leading cancer killer.

Compliance with screening regimens will save lives at a rate several orders of magnitude greater than the number of lives lost to sedation, says Jeff E. Mandel, MD, MS, clinical associate professor Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn. As physicians, we should look for ways to find the optimal balance between access to care and risks. No ones intere
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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