Newswise — Despite growing knowledge of the importance of colorectal screenings for cancer detection and prevention, many adults forgo the routine endoscopic procedure. Now a new anesthesia preference study presented today at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists reveals that patients may be more likely to undergo the endoscopic cancer screenings if assured they will be unconscious, with anesthesia administered by a physician anesthesiologist.

To determine patient preference, the study compared the use of traditional intravenous sedation using midazolam/fentanyl administered by endoscopy nurses to propofol anesthesia administered by anesthesiologists, during upper or lower endoscopic-procedures in 2003 and again in 2007.

"Modern anesthetics have been designed to safely anesthetize a patient for necessary procedures such as colonoscopies and endoscopies that would have not been possible or tolerated well by patients in the past," said Steven M. Frank, M.D., anesthesiologist at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and the study's lead researcher. "Propofol allows for a much deeper level of anesthesia, where patients are completely unconscious while also allowing for a rapid wakeup and recovery."

Of 155 total patients, 93 returned surveys related to their two endoscopic procedures. With 60 percent of patients responding, the data showed a seven to one patient preference to be completely "asleep" during the endoscopic procedure. Four times as many patients responded that they would be more likely to undergo routine cancer screening endoscopies if they knew they would be unconscious under the care of an anesthesiologist as opposed to receiving given by a nurse.

"Given that anxiety, pain and discomfort are major deterrents to colorectal cancer screening, our findings suggest that the routine use of propofol anesthesia may improve cancer screening rates, disease detection and reduce mortality from a leading cause of cancer death in the United States," said Dr. Frank.

The researchers concluded that "while most patients did not feel pain undergoing either procedure, they did indicate feeling safer knowing a physician anesthesiologist was rendering their care during the procedure."

Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 43,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

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American Society of Anesthesiologists 2008 Annual Meeting