LOS ANGELES — Colonoscopy sessions turn up more bad news earlier in the day, a University of California, Los Angeles study released last week indicated.
Researchers have discovered that the time of day affects how many polyps are spotted in patients’ colons, with most discovered first thing in the morning and a steadily decreasing number of detections as the day drags on.
Writing in the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Heptalogy, researchers at the UCLA/Veterans Affairs Center for Outcomes Research and Education, Dr. Brennan M.R. Speigel said the research was done “at an academically-affiliated facility that far exceeds quality benchmarks for colonoscopy outcomes.”
Nevertheless, Speigel said fatigue caused by repetitive viewing of colonoscopies may mean that doctors are less proficient at spotting problems as the day proceeds, much like truckers, surgeons or aircraft pilots.
Most insured Americans over the age of 50 know the colonoscopy procedure only too well: a day of fasting followed by an unpleasant inspection of the lower intestinal tract by a camera on a cable.
It is the only procedure doctors have to effectively spot and remove polyps, an intestinal growth that can be removed to provide a 90-percent reduction in colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the country.
The UCLA study found that early-morning colonoscopies found an average of 27 percent more polyps than those later in the day.
But Speigel said the mathematics behind his findings should not prompt patients to fear being examined in the afternoon or demand morning appointments.
“The impact of appointment time for any individual patient is very, very small,” he said, less than one polyp per four people. The cumulative effect, however, shows that doctors need to further research the matter.