Background: Colonoscopy can be technically challenging because of unpredictable colonoscope looping. Without imaging, straightening the colonoscope is sometimes difficult since the endoscopist has to guess where the tip is. Magnetic endoscope imaging (MEI), a new non-radiographical technique for picturing the colonoscope shaft in real time, could facilitate loop straightening and thus improve performance.
Methods: We assessed trainees and endoscopists with much experience of routine outpatient colonoscopy. In group 1, trainees examined 113 consecutive patients. MEI views were recorded in all examinations, but procedures were randomised to be done by two trainees, either with the endoscopist and endoscopy assistants viewing the imager display (n=58), or without the imager view (n=55). In group 2, two skilled endoscopists were randomised (as with group 1) to undertake consecutive examinations (n=183) either with (n=92) or without (n=91) the MEI view. MEI views of all procedures were analysed retrospectively.
Findings: In both groups, intubation times were shorter (median 11.8 min [4.3-31.5] vs 15.3 min [4-67] [group 1]; 8.0 min [2.6-40.8] vs 9.3 min [2.5-52.6] [group 2]) and number of attempts at straightening the colonoscope fewer (median 5 [0-20] vs 12 [0-57] [group 1]; 7 [0-55] vs 10 [0-80] [group 2]), when the endoscopist was able to see the imager view. In group 1, colonoscopy completion rates were also higher (100%  vs 89% ) and duration of looping was reduced (median 3 min [0-18.8] vs 5.4 min [0-44.5]) when the imager could be seen. Abdominal hand pressure was more effective when the endoscopist and endoscopy assistant could see the imager view.
Interpretation: MEI significantly improves performance of colonoscopy, particularly when used by trainees, or by experts in technically difficult cases; loops were straightened or controlled effectively, resulting in quick intubation times and high completion rates.