Failure of cecal intubation when using air insufflation during scheduled unsedated colonoscopy in veterans prompted a literature search for a less uncomfortable approach. Water-related maneuvers as adjuncts to air insufflation were identified as effective in minimizing discomfort, although medication requirement was not reduced and willingness to repeat unsedated colonoscopy was not addressed. These adjunct maneuvers were combined with turning the air pump off to avoid colon elongation during insertion. Warm water infusion in lieu of air insufflation was evaluated in observational studies. Subsequent refinements evolved into the water method a combination of air exclusion by aspiration of residual air to minimize angulations at flexures and a dynamic process of water exchange to remove feces in order to clear the view and aid insertion. In subsequent randomized controlled trials, the water method significantly reduced medication requirement, increased the proportion of patients in whom complete unsedated colonoscopy could be achieved, reduced patient recovery time burdens (sedation on demand), decreased abdominal discomfort during and after colonoscopy, enhanced cecal intubation, and increased willingness to repeat the procedure (scheduled unsedated). Supervised education of trainees and self-learning by an experienced colonoscopist were feasible. Lessons learned in developing the water method for optimizing patient-centered outcomes are presented. These proof-of-principle observations merit further research assessment in diverse settings.
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