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Unnecessary Intrusion? Colonoscopies Bring Risks To Seniors

People will find any excuse to avoid their doctor-recommended colonoscopy, but some elderly patients are making the right choice when they refuse one.overtreatment-thumb-140x209-17787.jpg A new study by JAMA Internal Medicine found that 24 percent of colonoscopies are unnecessary, and the side effects may extend far beyond discomfort.

Researchers discovered that 23.5 percent of patients ages 70 and older receive colonoscopies less than 10 years after their prior examination. The Preventative Task Force recommends colorectal screenings every 10 years for patients aged 50 to 75, assuming the prior screening was negative. Despite the well-supported recommendation, doctors continue to push unnecessary screenings on older adults, subjecting them to unnecessary risks.

The side effects of colorectal screening are typically minor, but they become more common and profound as the patient ages, or when he or she is in a fragile condition. The risks of colonoscopies include:

The Preventative Task Force recommends that physicians carefully weigh the pros and cons of administering colorectal screenings to senior patients. Researchers found that screenings prescribed for patients 70-75 years old were unnecessary 10 percent of the time. This number swelled to nearly 40 percent in the 76- to 85-year-old age group.

The next time you or your parents visit the doctor, make sure any invasive screening is medically necessary under established guidelines.

McKeen & Associates, PC, is a Detroit law firm with a national reputation for helping medical malpractice victims. If you live in the U.S. and have suffered serious harm from a misdiagnosis or botched procedure, contact us for a free consultation.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, "Potentially Inappropriate Screening Colonoscopy In Medicare Patients," Kristin M. Sheffield, March 11, 2013

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