Quality assurance in flexible sigmoidoscopy: medical and nonmedical endoscopists


The clinical assessment of position in colon and hence completion during flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) is believed to be inaccurate. The technique of applying endomucosal clips with follow-up X-ray has previously been used for establishing completion in colonoscopy. Furthermore, we have now trained non-healthcare professionals (non-medical endoscopists, NME) to perform FS, but there is no data on assessment of their performance of FS. We performed this study with the aims of determining accuracy of endoscopists’ clinical impression regarding actual position of endoscope in colon during FS, comparing medical (ME) and NME in terms of clinical accuracy, and to determine role of endomucosal clips with follow-up X-rays in documenting completion and hence quality assurance. All patients undergoing elective FS, except those with surgical resection, were included, after ethics approval. During FS, endoscopist applied an endomucosal clip at most proximal bowel reached and endoscopists recorded their independent opinion about position of clip. Post procedure, all patients underwent an abdominal X-ray, reported by consultant radiologist, blinded to outcome of FS. X-ray results were compared with endoscopist findings. Complete FS was defined as one where descending colon was reached. Fifty-one patients, with median age of 55 years, participated in study. The endoscopists were accurate in their assessment of position in colon in 38 patients (75%). The attending nurse was accurate in only 31% of cases. The crude and corrected completion rates were 73% and 84%, respectively. There was no correlation between length of endoscope and its position in colon. There were no differences between NME and ME in terms of clinical accuracy. This study has shown that clinical impression of endoscopist during FS regarding position is not very accurate, implying need for regular quality assurance. The technique of applying endomucosal clips with follow-on abdominal X-ray is an excellent objective measure of quality assurance in FS. NME can perform FS with comparable completion rates and accuracy.


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