Background & aims: Flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and gastroscopy are important in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. Pressure on endoscopy resources is expected due to increased screening for GI cancers. The present study examined patterns of use of GI endoscopy in a Canadian province, Alberta, with universal health care insurance.
Methods: Data on physician payments from January 1, 1994 to March 31, 2002 were used to calculate age-sex adjusted rates and patterns of use.
Results: The gastroscopy rate increased by 17%, from 9.7 (95% CI 9.6 to 9.9) to 10.3 (95% CI 10.1 to 10.5). The colonoscopy rate increased by 105%, from 4.8 (95% CI 4.6 to 5.0) to 9.8 (95% CI 9.6 to 10.1). Flexible sigmoidoscopy rates declined by 10%, from 4.68 (95% CI 4.56 to 4.80) to 4.21 (95% CI 4.11 to 4.32). The increase in colonoscopy rates occurred in all age groups, whereas gastroscopy rates increased only in the older age groups. Regional variation in procedure rates was evident, but rural health regions did not have consistently lower rates than the large urban regions. A polypectomy was performed on 23.7% of male patients and 15.4% of female patients at time of colonoscopy. Rates of polypectomy for individual endoscopists ranged from 0% to 60%.
Conclusions: There has been a marked increase in gastroscopy and colonoscopy rates, likely due to a broadening of indications rather than just increased use for cancer screening. Modest regional variation in rates exists, but there is no direct evidence of limited rural access to endoscopy. Reasonable polypectomy rates were seen but important variations between endoscopists exist.