Anesthesiologists likely not needed for routine colonoscopies — 5 insights

Two Gainesville-based University of Florida Health anesthesiologists suggested anesthesiologists may not be needed during routine colonoscopies.

Here's what you should know:

1. Joshua Sappenfield, MD, and Jeffrey White, MD, said while anesthesiologists are still essential in the endoscopy suite, a non-anesthesiologist could administer light sedation – if sedation is needed at all – for routine colonoscopies.

2. Since 2010, 58 percent of colonoscopies performed through Medicare and 81 percent performed through private insurers involved low-risk patients who wouldn't have needed anesthesia.

3. In other cultures, non-anesthesiologists have been able to administer propofol "potentially without sacrificing safety." However, Dr. Sappenfield and Dr. White said when propofol is concerned, an anesthesiologist is a critical safeguard in the event of an emergency.

4. Performing colonoscopies without sedation would decrease turnover time and procedure cost. However, a sedation-less procedure would potentially expose the patient to discomfort.

5. Despite the possibility, both Dr. Sappenfield and Dr. White would opt for sedation if they were undergoing a colonoscopy. Dr. White said, "Our function as academicians is to inform our fellow anesthesiologists about what is happening out there in the world so they can know what may or may not be coming. We're supposed to be advancing science and not be afraid of facts. And the facts are that you can actually have a colonoscopy un-sedated."

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