Background & Aims: Recent legislation passed in July 2001 provides coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries for average-risk screening colonoscopy. Methods: We analyzed the Clinical Outcomes Research Initiative national endoscopic database to characterize colonoscopy practice patterns before and after the introduction of this coverage. Results: Between January 1998 and May 2002, 205,638 patients underwent colonoscopy, of whom 8.3% underwent average-risk colon cancer screening. The proportion of procedures performed for average-risk screening has increased dramatically from 4.6% (before July 2001) to 14.2% (after July 2001). With the increased volume of average-risk screening examinations, colonic lesion detection (masses and polyps greater than 9 mm) has declined (4.9% before July 2001 to 3.8% after July 2001). Conclusions: There has been a dramatic increase in the rates of screening colonoscopy during the past 4 years. If rates continue to increase, optimal resource utilization will assume increasing importance.
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