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BACKGROUND: Accurate optical diagnosis of small (<10 mm) colorectal polyps in vivo, without formal histopathology, could make colonoscopy more efficient and cost effective. The aim of this study was to assess whether optical diagnosis of small polyps is feasible and safe in routine clinical practice. METHODS: Consecutive patients with a positive faecal occult blood test or previous adenomas undergoing surveillance at St Mark's Hospital (London, UK), from June 19, 2008, to June 16, 2009, were included in this prospective study. Four colonoscopists with different levels of experience predicted polyp histology using optical diagnosis with high-definition white light, followed by narrow-band imaging without magnification and chromoendoscopy, as required. The primary outcome was accuracy of polyp characterisation using optical diagnosis compared with histopathology, the current gold standard. Accuracy of optical diagnosis to predict the next surveillance interval was also assessed and compared with surveillance intervals predicted by current guidelines using histopathology. This study is registered with, NCT00888771. FINDINGS: 363 polyps smaller than 10 mm were detected in 130 patients, of which 278 polyps had both optical and histopathological diagnosis. By histology, 198 of these polyps were adenomas and 80 were non-neoplastic lesions (of which 62 were hyperplastic). Optical diagnosis accurately diagnosed 186 of 198 adenomas (sensitivity 0.94; 95% CI 0.90-0.97) and 55 of 62 hyperplastic polyps (specificity 0.89; 0.78-0.95), with an overall accuracy of 241 of 260 (0.93, 0.89-0.96) for polyp characterisation. Using optical diagnosis alone, 82 of 130 patients could be given a surveillance interval immediately after colonoscopy, and the same interval was found after formal histopathology in 80 patients (98%) using British guidelines and in 78 patients (95%) using US multisociety guidelines. INTERPRETATION: For polyps less than 10 mm in size, in-vivo optical diagnosis seems to be an acceptable strategy to assess polyp histopathology and future surveillance intervals. Dispensing with formal histopathology for most small polyps found at colonoscopy could improve the efficiency of the procedure and lead to substantial savings in time and cost. FUNDING: Leigh Family Trust, London, UK.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Oncol

Publication Date





1171 - 1178


Adult, Aged, Cohort Studies, Colonic Polyps, Colonoscopy, Female, Health Care Costs, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Prospective Studies