14 Nov 2013

New water treatment eases colonoscopies - doctor

11:12 am on 14 November 2013

Some specialists say a new way of carrying out colonoscopy procedures could be better for patients and effective in assessing bowel diseases.

Colonoscopies are the main method of investigating bowel disease, but the procedure can be uncomfortable or painful.

A handful of gastroenterologists are now using water rather than carbon dioxide to inflate the bowel so that a flexible scope can be pushed along it.

About 40,000 New Zealanders undergo the procedure each year, but some have to be sedated to withstand the pain.

Two Wellington gastroenterologists, Rees Cameron and Ian Wilson, say they are impressed with the results, as many patients complete the colonoscopy without needing sedation.

The Crohn's and Colitis New Zealand patient group says that's better for patients, who are able to watch and understand the procedure.

Dr Cameron learned the technique in San Francisco.

"Water makes it comfortable for the great majority of patients, and if they're not sedated ... they can resume their day, as if the procedure hadn't happened," he says.

His colleague, Dr Wilson, says he was sceptical at first but is now a convert.

"After 25 years, or more, of standard colonoscopy, I was a bit sceptical, but I'm a total convert now, because of the obvious improvement in the quality of the procedure".

A patient, Brian Poole - interviewed during the procedure - says he watched with great interest.

"It's nice to be awake, and not drowsy," he says.