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Sure, President Obama can get a virtual colonoscopy, but you ... (And should you?)

March 1, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Polyps Perhaps you read that President Obama recently had a virtual colonoscopy instead of the more traditional kind. And perhaps you're thinking, "Hey, if I have to have a screening of my large intestine, make mine a virtual one too!"

Not so fast.

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse makes these key points about virtual colonoscopies: They're not without their own unpleasantness (the colon must still be emptied). They don't always find small polyps. And if they DO find a problem, then you've got to make a date with a long, lighted flexible tube anyway.

Not deterred? Keep this in mind: Medicare and many health insurance plans won't pay for them.

Here's today's story on Obama's first physical exam since he became president.

And, as context, an earlier L.A. Times story on the debate about virtual colonoscopies.  Here's a quick passage: "But there is still no consensus about the effectiveness of the new procedure. Some critics contend it could inflate the nation's skyrocketing healthcare tab because a traditional colonoscopy is required if anything is found in the imaging."

Interesting, no?

Here's a primer on the traditional kind. Truly, they're not so bad.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Left, a polyp as seen using virtual colonoscopy software, and on the right, the same polyp as seen with  conventional colonoscopy.

Credit:  Dr. Perry Pickhardt / Associated Press