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BACKGROUND: Colonoscopy is an invasive procedure and a limited resource. It is therefore desirable to restrict its use to those in whom it yields an important diagnosis, without missing pathology in others. AIM: The aim of this study was to determine whether standard clinical criteria can be used to reliably distinguish when colonoscopy is advisable in women 30 years and younger. METHODS: A retrospective audit was performed at a single centre of 100 consecutive colonoscopies performed in women 30 years old and younger. The indications for the colonoscopy were recorded, and divided into clear and relative indications. The primary outcome of whether an endoscopic diagnosis was made was compared between the two groups. Clear indications for colonoscopy included overt rectal bleeding, elevated inflammatory markers, anaemia, iron deficiency and strong family history of colorectal cancer. Relative indications included abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating and altered bowel habit/motions. RESULTS: The average age was 23 years. Sixty women had both relative and clear indications. Eleven had only clear indications and 28 only relative indications. Altogether, 58 colonoscopies were normal, and 17 showed inflammatory bowel disease. No subject with only relative indications had an abnormal finding (0/28). The diagnostic yield was significantly different between those with only relative indications (0%) versus those with at least one clear indication (59%; P < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Standard clinical criteria can be used to restrict safely the use of colonoscopy in young women. This will avoid performing procedures in people without clear indications, saving costs, resources and complications.

Original publication




Journal article


Intern Med J

Publication Date





492 - 496


colonoscopy, diagnosis, endoscopy, female, human, Abdominal Pain, Anemia, Iron-Deficiency, Colonic Polyps, Colonoscopy, Colorectal Neoplasms, Contraindications, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Female, Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Patient Selection, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Retrospective Studies, Triage, Young Adult