Anesthesia During Endoscopy, Colonoscopy on the Rise

Increase among Medicare, commercially-insured patients; services mainly used in low-risk patients

TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Use of gastroenterology anesthesia services increased considerably from 2003 to 2009 among both Medicare and commercially-insured patients, according to a study published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To quantify temporal and regional variations in the use of, and payment for, gastroenterology anesthesia services, Hangsheng Liu, Ph.D., from the RAND Corporation in Boston, and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of 2003 to 2009 claims data for a 5 percent representative sample of Medicare fee-for-service patients (1.1 million adults) and a sample of 5.5 million commercially-insured patients.

The researchers found that, in Medicare patients, the number of gastroenterology procedures per million enrollees remained largely unchanged (mean, 136,718 procedures), whereas among commercially-insured patients there was more than a 50 percent increase during the study period (from 33,599 in 2003 to 50,816 in 2009). The proportion of gastroenterology procedures using anesthesia services in both populations increased from approximately 14 percent in 2003 to more than 30 percent in 2009, with more than two-thirds of anesthesia services used in low-risk patients (defined using the American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status class 1 or 2). In both populations, substantial regional variation was seen in the proportion of procedures using anesthesia services, varying from 13 percent in the West to 59 percent in the Northeast. For Medicare patients, payments for gastroenterology anesthesia services doubled, and in commercially-insured patients they quadrupled.

"Between 2003 and 2009, utilization of anesthesia services during gastroenterology procedures increased substantially," the authors write.

The study was funded by Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc.

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