A new study has shown that computer software has the potential to make virtual colonoscopy nearly as accurate as conventional colonoscopy, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health published in the December issue of Gastroenterology. But, the two methods may not yet be identically effective, for though each method worked equally in identifying large colon polyps, standard colonoscopy is a better tool for smaller polyps.
Due to the dangers of colon cancer, medical professionals recommends regular screening for all people beginning at age 50 - yet many avoid the procedure. This could be because the procedure is less than pleasant, being highly invasive and requiring sedation and bowel preparation. It is hoped that because virtual colonoscopy is less invasive, some people might prefer it over standard colonoscopy.
Previous studies comparing virtual colonoscopy to regular colonoscopy have not been entirely compelling with some showing it to be generally less accurate. Other concerns have included training and the varieties of CT technology that could be used.
This study - which involved more than 1,200 adults - screened the patients using both traditional and CAD-assisted virtual colonoscopy during the same period. The results were compared.
According to this study, the performance of virtual colonoscopy with CAD was nearly the same as traditional colonoscopy in the instance of large polyps. The study found that 90 percent of polyps 10mm or larger and more than 85 percent of those 8mm or larger were found with the virtual method, whereas traditional colonoscopy found 86 percent of 10mm polyps and 90 percent of 8mm polyps.
Yet the news was not all good. Virtual colonoscopy with CAD in this study performed far worse than traditional colonoscopy in locating polyps between 6mm and 8mm.
This raises some concerns, said Durado Brooks, MD, director of prostate and colorectal cancer for the American Cancer Society. Although there is debate about how dangerous polyps of this size are, they do have some potential for growing into cancer. Most doctors would remove a 6mm or 7mm polyp found during regular colonoscopy, Brooks added.
All in all the study is promising, Brooks said, because it shows there are ways to improve the accuracy of virtual colonoscopy.