Colonoscopy in rural communities: can family physicians perform the procedure with safe and efficacious results?

J Am Board Fam Pract. 2004 Sep-Oct;17(5):353-8. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.17.5.353.


Background: Colonoscopy is becoming increasingly necessary for many patients in screening, diagnosing, and treating colorectal problems. Because the majority of rural doctors are family physicians, providing colonoscopy for the enlarging group of patients with valid indications in rural areas is difficult, unless rural family physicians perform the procedure. Subspecialists in academic settings have been responsible for most of the previously reported studies regarding colonoscopy. We have studied the safety and efficacy of the procedure when performed by rural family physicians.

Methods: A total of 200 sequential colonoscopies performed by family physicians in a rural setting were prospectively collected. Outcomes were measured based on current recommendations and benchmarks, including rate of reaching the cecum, time to reach the cecum, time to completion of the study, pathologic lesions found, and complications.

Results: The rate of reaching the cecum was 96.5%, and the average time to the cecum was 15.9 minutes. The average time to study completion was 34.4 minutes. The rate of neoplastic polyps and cancer found was 22.5% and 2.5%, respectively. There were no serious complications.

Conclusions: Adequately trained family physicians can provide safe and technically competent colonoscopy in a rural setting. Their results compare favorably to the currently reported comparative benchmarks from other endoscopists.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonoscopy / standards*
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Professional Competence*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rural Health Services / standards*
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data