Virtual Colonoscopy Screening Uncovers Silent Killer

Charles Snowdon, who underwent virtual colonoscopy at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, WisconsinMadison, Wisconsin - When Charles Snowdon scheduled his virtual colonoscopy he was pleased to have an option that was less invasive and less time-consuming than the more conventional procedure for screening for polyps (growths) in the large intestine.

The procedure, which also gives radiologists the unique ability to look outside the colon at the abdomen and pelvis, ultimately saved his life.

During the procedure, Snowdon was diagnosed with two abdominal aortic aneurysms, and was at risk for a massive, life-threatening rupture.

"I was suffering from a silent killer, and had no idea," said Snowdon.

With no previous risk factors for the condition, the aneurysms most likely would not have been identified without the virtual colonoscopy. At the time Snowdon was scheduled to speak at a conference in Vienna, but instead he underwent life-saving surgery.

Today Snowdon is a vocal advocate for virtual colonoscopy. At the time, his doctor recommended the procedure because of UW Health's expertise and experience with virtual colonoscopy. It appealed to Snowdon because it was minimally invasive, required no pain medication or sedation, and would allow him to quickly return to work and his normal routine.

"I know most people don't like to talk about colonoscopy," said Snowdon, “but I bring it up to everyone my age, every chance I get. It saved my life, and maybe it will save someone else's too."

"Through increased screening, virtual colonoscopy could potentially help save up to 50,000 lives in the United States each year by detecting important polyps and preventing colorectal cancer,” said Perry Pickhardt, MD, director of the Virtual Colonoscopy program at UW Health. "It is a safe and effective screening option for detecting this deadly, but preventable disease."

The UW Health Digestive Health Services team of radiologists, gastroenterologists, hepatologists and colorectal surgeons are recognized throughout the region as experts in digestive health care services. The UW Health Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology was recently recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top programs in the nation. Their virtual colonoscopy team leads the way in expertise as the country's largest program.
During a virtual colonoscopy, instead of inserting a camera, a computer software program creates a 3-D image of the colon and rectum. If significant polyps are detected (seen in about 5 percent of cases), an optical colonoscopy will be scheduled with an experienced UW Health Gastroenterologist that same day to remove them.

If you are age 50 or older, have a family history of colon cancer, or have medical conditions that may increase your risks during a conventional colonoscopy, consider scheduling a virtual colonoscopy. As Snowdon said, it may not be something you like to talk about, but you never know when or how this effective and convenient screening might save your life.

Date Published: 08/27/2012

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