Prospective comparison of patient experience with colon imaging tests

Am J Med. 2006 Sep;119(9):791-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.013.


Purpose: Patient experience varies with the currently available colon imaging tests, including air contrast barium enema, computed tomographic colonography, and colonoscopy. We examined differences in patient experience with colon imaging tests and whether they varied with gender, age, and race.

Subjects and methods: Patients with fecal occult blood, hematochezia, iron-deficiency anemia, or a family history of colon cancer underwent air contrast barium enema followed 7 to 14 days later by computed tomographic colonography and colonoscopy. Validated patient experience questionnaires that measured the experience for each test and a separate questionnaire that obtained an overall summary measure were administered after testing. Eleven patient experiences including pain, embarrassment, difficulty with bowel preparation, and satisfaction with tests were examined.

Results: A total of 614 subjects completed all 3 imaging tests. The test most patients were willing to repeat was colonoscopy; it also was reported to be the least painful procedure. Patients were least satisfied with air contrast barium enema, and fewer would undergo air contrast barium enema compared with computed tomographic colonography or colonoscopy. There were limited racial and gender differences in perceptions of the tests. Younger adults perceived air contrast barium enema to be more painful than older adults.

Conclusion: Taking into account a wide variety of patient experience measures, patients preferred colonoscopy to air contrast barium enema and computed tomographic colonography. This finding has important implications for physicians considering different colon imaging tests.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Barium Sulfate*
  • Colon / diagnostic imaging
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colonic Polyps / diagnosis
  • Colonography, Computed Tomographic / methods*
  • Colonoscopy / methods*
  • Contrast Media / pharmacology
  • Data Collection
  • Enema / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Contrast Media
  • Barium Sulfate