Private hospital offers less stressful endoscopy for patients

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2007, 12:00am

A private hospital is offering a new form of endoscopy - the process by which a tube with a tiny camera is inserted down a patient's throat - which it says is less stressful for patients and less likely to cause damage.

The tube used in the new process is just 5mm in diameter, about half the size of a conventional endoscope.

The Union Hospital in Sha Tin, which introduced the procedure in April, says it is less frightening for nervous patients, reducing the need for sedation.

It has drawbacks, however, in that it can be used only for diagnosis whereas the thicker-tubed apparatus also can be used for some types of surgery. And it costs more.

Medical director Anthony Lee Kai-yiu said stomach and digestion problems were common in Hong Kong and the hospital conducted endoscopy on about 200 patients a month on average.

Consultant surgeon of the hospital Wilfred Mui Lik-man said conventional endoscopy could be quite scary to patients and most would request sedation during the examination. However, sedatives could cause side effects, such as allergies, and could also affect cardiopulmonary functions, thus delaying recovery.

Union Hospital, the first private institution in Hong Kong to use the process, has conducted it on about 30 patients so far.

It charges patients HK$2,600 for the new service compared with the conventional diagnosis, which costs HK$2,100.

'The new endoscope is thinner and safer and can improve the patients' tolerance. Only half of the 30 patients we have treated needed sedation,' Dr Mui said.

Research conducted by Chinese University's surgical department between 2004 and 2005 found 41 per cent of patients had throat discomfort in the first three days after having conventional endoscopy, compared with 26 per cent who had the ultra-thin endoscopy. However, Dr Mui said the ultra-thin endoscopy had its limitations in being able to be used only for diagnosis. The conventional endoscopy can be used for minimally invasive surgical procedures.

The hospital is also preparing to open an emergency room by the end of the year. Deputy medical director Ares Leung Kwok-ling said the hospital had headhunted six specialists in emergency medicine but was still negotiating final details with the Department of Health.