June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Putting patients into a deep sleep during colonoscopy results in more frequent detection of precancerous polyps than merely making patients sleepy with sedatives, new research has found.
During colonoscopy, patients can either be put to sleep under deep sedation or kept awake using moderate conscious sedation, which allows them to hear and respond to directions during the procedure.
Researchers found that placing patients under deep sedation resulted in the detection of more polyps, clumps of cells that form on the colon lining that may eventually become cancerous, according to a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association.
The reason could be that during deep sedation, patients are more relaxed and physicians can focus completely on polyp detection, the researchers said.
The findings are to be presented Tuesday at Digestive Disease Week 2009 in Chicago.
In the study, the researchers examined a database of endoscopy (the procedure used in colonoscopy) reports from 61 sites across the United States. Patients were either deeply sedated or given moderate conscious sedation.
Gastroenterologists found 25 percent more polyps in patients under deep sedation after controlling for age, gender and race. Doctors also found more large polyps, which are likelier to become cancerous than small ones.
"We don't know for sure whether these polyps would have been found if the patients were examined under moderate sedation," said study author Dr. Katherine M. Hoda, senior fellow in the department of gastroenterology at Oregon Health & Science University. "Our study suggests that deep sedation finds more polyps, which could have an impact on the way physicians conduct colonoscopies."
Still, the study involved a small number of patients and was not randomized, so more research needs to be done before saying for sure that deep sedation is the better method, Hoda said.
By enabling doctors to detect colon cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages, the findings could have lifesaving benefits, according to the news release.
Not counting skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Nearly 50,000 people will die of colorectal cancer in the United States this year.
Men and women at average risk of colorectal cancer should have a colorectal screening test after age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends.
SOURCE: American Gastroenterological Association, news release, June 1, 2009