Virtual colonoscopy grabs spotlight in D.C.

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Mike Bassett,
Associate Editor

Sometimes it appears that CT colonography just can’t avoid the spotlight.

In what was expected to be a straightforward two-day public hearing called by the FDA to discuss medical radiation, the issue of CT colonography succeeded in creating some controversy in the mainstream press.

In the days before the hearing, held March 30-31, the New York Times ran an article alleging that the FDA ignored one of its scientists who had warned them that approving a medical device application for CT colonography screening could “expose a number of Americans to a risk of radiation that is unwarranted and may lead to instances of solid organ abdominal cancer.”

According to our reporter who attended the two-day hearing, the actual appearance of the scientist in question at the hearing was rather-anti-climactic, but the mini-controversy did succeed in obscuring the central goal of the meeting—to look for ways to improve safety for patients exposed to medical radiation.

In the meantime, studies continue to show the clinical value of virtual colonoscopy. For example, in the April issue of Radiology, Perry J. Pickhardt, MD, and colleagues, reported on a study that found that one out of every 200 asymptomatic persons screened with virtual colonoscopy had clinically unsuspected malignant cancer. In addition, half of those cancers were located outside of the colon.

"We are finding that virtual colonoscopy screening actually identifies more unsuspected cancers outside of the colon than within it," said Pickhardt, who is professor of radiology and chief of GI Imaging, at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health. "As with asymptomatic colorectal cancers identified by virtual colonoscopy screening, these cancers are often detected at an early, curable stage."

If you have a comment or report to share about how the utilization of advanced visualization technology is changing your practice, please contact me at the address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Bassett, Associate Editor