Limited life expectancy among a subgroup of medicare beneficiaries receiving screening colonoscopies

Sahil Mittal, Yu Li Lin, Alai Tan, Yong Fang Kuo, Hashem B. El-Serag, James S. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Life expectancy is an important consideration when assessing appropriateness of preventive programs for older individuals. Most studies on this subject have used age cutoffs as a proxy for life expectancy. We analyzed patterns of utilization of screening colonoscopy in Medicare enrollees by using estimated life expectancy. Methods: We used a 5% random national sample of Medicare claims data to identify average-risk patients who underwent screening colonoscopies from 2008 to 2010. Colonoscopies were considered to be screening colonoscopies in the absence of diagnoses for nonscreening indications, which were based on either colonoscopies or any claims in the preceding 3 months. We estimated life expectancies by using a model that combined age, sex, and comorbidity. Among patients who underwent screening colonoscopies, we calculated the percentage of those with life expectancies <10 years. Results: Among the 57,597 Medicare beneficiaries 66 years old or older who received at least 1 screening colonoscopy, 24.8% had an estimated life expectancy of <10 years. There was a significant positive association between total Medicare per capita costs in hospital referral regions and the proportion of patients with limited life expectancies (<10 years) at the time of screening colonoscopy (R= 0.25; P < .001, Pearson correlation test). In a multivariable analysis, men were substantially more likely than women to have limited life expectancy at the time of screening colonoscopy (odds ratio, 2.25; 95% confidence interval, 2.16-2.34). Conclusions: Nearly 25% of Medicare beneficiaries, especially men, had life expectancies <10 years at the time of screening colonoscopies. Life expectancy should therefore be incorporated in decision-making for preventive services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-450.e1
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Colon Cancer
  • Colonoscopy
  • Life Expectancy
  • Medicare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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