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Researchers Test Laxative-Free Colon Scan
Date:5/15/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- A preliminary new study suggests that patients who get virtual colonoscopies -- alternatives to regular colonoscopies -- might avoid the unpleasant task of bowel-cleansing with laxatives beforehand.

However, this study of 605 people found that the laxative-free virtual colonoscopies were less effective at detecting small malignancies than regular colonoscopies. Not surprisingly, patients who underwent the laxative-free procedure preferred it.

"This study opens the door to a more patient-friendly form of exam," said study lead author Dr. Michael Zalis, associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. "We know that the colonoscopy preparation keeps a lot of people from participating."

Colon cancer is expected to kill 50,000 people in the United States this year. Colonoscopy screening enables doctors to identify and remove precancerous polyps.

The virtual colonoscopy has become more common in recent years. The American Cancer Society endorses it as an acceptable screening method. Supporters say it is more comfortable than regular colonoscopy because it doesn't require placing a fiber-optic scope into the rectum. Instead, doctors use CT scanners to inspect the intestines for signs of colon cancer.

The virtual procedure doesn't require sedation, unlike regular screening, but it does require insertion of a small tube into the rectum to push carbon dioxide into the intestine.

And like regular colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy usually requires that patients drink a liquid laxative that causes diarrhea and cramping as it cleanses the bowel of fecal matter.

But this new procedure cleanses the bowel "electronically." Patients involved in the study, who were 50 to 85 years old and at average to moderate risk of colon cancer, received a "contrast agent" to add to low-fiber meals and snacks for two days before their proc
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