Virtual colonoscopies using CT scanners are becoming more common for some indications, and that alleviates the need for patients to have optical tools inserted where the sun don’t shine. Nevertheless, prior to exam, the colon needs to be emptied so that intestinal tissue, and any potential polyps, can be clearly seen. Buckets of laxatives are usually administered to facilitate the cleansing of the colon, but certainly not everyone is excited about such an experience. Researchers from Harvard have been working on alleviating the need to evacuate the colon by using a drinkable contrast agent and computational methods to differentiate stool from tissue in the CT scans. According to an initial study on 605 adults with an average to moderate risk for colon cancer, the researchers have shown that the new technique successfully detects adenomas at least 10 mm in size and the patient experience was greatly improved.
Because participation in colorectal cancer screening is seriously hampered by the way it is commonly performed, virtual colonoscopy coupled with laxative-free imaging should help get a lot more people into the clinic.
More from the Harvard Health Blog: Laxative-free colonoscopy on the way?
Abstract in Annals of Internal Medicine: Diagnostic Accuracy of Laxative-Free Computed Tomographic Colonography for Detection of Adenomatous Polyps in Asymptomatic Adults