Background & aims: The use of nurse endoscopists to perform flexible sigmoidoscopy is expanding, increasing the availability of colorectal cancer screening. However, the effectiveness of this practice has not been studied in randomized trials. The aim of this trial was to examine the miss rate of polyps, the depth of sigmoidoscope insertion, and the incidence of complications during flexible sigmoidoscopy performed by nurse endoscopists and by gastroenterologists.
Methods: Three hundred twenty-eight patients were randomized to undergo screening flexible sigmoidoscopy performed by a nurse endoscopist or by a gastroenterologist. Frequency of missed polyps was determined by repeat sigmoidoscopy, performed by a gastroenterologist blinded to the identity of the first endoscopist. Multiple logistic regression analysis identified characteristics associated with missed polyps.
Results: Gastroenterologists and nurse endoscopists had equivalent miss rates for adenomatous polyps (20% vs. 21%, respectively; P = 0.91). No complications occurred in any patient. Gastroenterologists inserted the sigmoidoscope further than nurse endoscopists (61 vs. 55 cm, respectively; P < 0.00001). Polyp location in the descending colon (odds ratio, 4.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-10.3) was highly associated with missed polyps.
Conclusions: No differences in detection of adenomatous polyps or frequency of complications were found. These data suggest that experienced nurse endoscopists may perform screening flexible sigmoidoscopy as safely and as effectively as gastroenterologists.