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FAQ > Colon > If virtual colonoscopy has all of these disadvantages and no real advantages compared to standard colonoscopy, why is the virtual examination getting so much publicity?

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If virtual colonoscopy has all of these disadvantages and no real advantages compared to standard colonoscopy, why is the virtual examination getting so much publicity?

Barium enema was the standard technique for diagnosing colorectal disease from the 1930's until the 1970's. When colonoscopy became widely available in the late 1970's, radiologists found themselves no longer performing many barium enemas. The specialty of Radiology developed other diagnostic techniques such as cat scanning and magnetic resonance imaging during the last three decades, but the loss of colon work to the gastrointestinal endoscopist was a sore point for radiologists. The research into "virtual colonoscopy" has been the radiologists' effort to discover a way to regain the colorectal diagnostic business which was lost to colonoscopy. The term "virtual colonoscopy" is brilliant marketing, but it is also misleading since it is not a scoping (looking into) the colon at all. Virtual colonoscopy offers the government and the private health insurance companies which pay the bills for colonic examinations the hope of a lower cost per procedure; the physician fees for the two examinations are similar, but the facility costs for the radiological examination and the absence of anesthesia charges for the radiological examination give the virtual examination a potential financial edge when macroeconomics are considered. Since there is no good estimate of how many people undergoing the radiological examination will also need to go on to have the endoscopic examination anyway, the cost of duplicate procedures has not been factored into the economic comparisons between the two procedures, suggesting that virtual colonoscopy may very well be a false economy as well as a technically inferior examination.