Background: After patients have undergone colonoscopic polypectomy, it is uncertain whether colonoscopic examination or a barium enema is the better method of surveillance.
Methods: As part of the National Polyp Study, we offered colonoscopic examination and double-contrast barium enema for surveillance to patients with newly diagnosed adenomatous polyps. Although barium enema was performed first, the endoscopist did not know the results.
Results: A total of 973 patients underwent one or more colonoscopic examinations for surveillance. In the case of 580 of these patients, we performed 862 paired colonoscopic examinations and barium-enema examinations that met the requirements of the protocol. The findings on barium enema were positive in 222 (26 percent) of the paired examinations, including 139 of the 392 colonoscopic examinations in which one or more polyps were detected (rate of detection, 35 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 31 to 40 percent). The proportion of examinations in which adenomatous polyps were detected by barium enema colonoscopy was significantly related to the size of the adenomas (P=0.009); the rate was 32 percent for colonoscopic examinations in which the largest adenomas detected were 0.5 cm or less, 53 percent for those in which the largest adenomas detected were 0.6 to 1.0 cm, and 48 percent for those in which the largest adenomas detected exceeded 1.0 cm. Among the 139 paired examinations with positive results on barium enema and negative results on colonoscopic examination in the same location, 19 additional polyps, 12 of which were adenomas, were detected on colonoscopic reexamination.
Conclusions: In patients who have undergone colonoscopic polypectomy, colonoscopic examination is a more effective method of surveillance than double-contrast barium enema.