The barium enemas of 48 consecutive patients, who were technically difficult to intubate at colonoscopy, were compared to those of 46 patients who were not. Measurements were taken of colonic length and mobility, and an assessment made of diverticular disease. Rectosigmoid length (mean difficult group=61 cm, mean control=54 cm, P=0.01) and total colonic length (mean difficult group=157 cm, mean control=140 cm, P<0.0001) were greater in the difficult colonoscopy group as were transverse colon mobility (mean difficult group=10 cm, mean control=7 cm, P=0·003) or redundancy (transverse colon reaching the true pelvis on the erect film); 65% difficult group vs 17% control group, P<0.0001. The presence of moderate or severe diverticular disease was also greater in the difficult (23%) compared to the control (4%) group, P=0.02. When available, assessment of a previous barium enema is a useful guide to probable technical difficulty of colonoscopy. It may allow appropriate allocation of potentially difficult cases to specialist endoscopy lists.
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