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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 21, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Colonoscopy costs

Virtual procedure more cost-effective than traditional

Noam Levey’s article, “Inside look at health-cost battle” [News, April 19], unfortunately omits a total-cost comparison of virtual colonoscopy (typically less than $1,000) and traditional colonoscopy (twice as much). Some object to the former because “up to 20 percent of patients will have a polyp requiring that they get a follow-up optical colonoscopy to have the growth removed.”

Consider two examples. In the first, five patients have traditional colonoscopy. At the cost of $2,000 each, total costs are $10,000.

In the second, five patients have virtual colonoscopy. Using a price of $1,000 (half as much), costs are $5,000. One patient (“up to 20 percent”) has a polyp, requiring a traditional colonoscopy to remove it at a cost of $2,000. In this second example, total costs are $7,000.

And this second colonoscopy is “needlessly duplicative”? Further, “Some critics contend it could inflate the nation’s skyrocketing health-care tab because a traditional colonoscopy is required if anything is found in the imaging” of the virtual colonoscopy? Even though it is a screening option recommended by the American Cancer Society?

Virtual colonoscopy looks like a way to reduce colonoscopy costs by 30 percent for those choosing it.

— Jerry L. Lundry, Bellevue

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