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.
Dr Sahil Mittal and colleagues from Texas, USA analyzed patterns of utilization of screening colonoscopy in Medicare enrollees by using estimated life expectancy.
The research team 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.
The team estimated life expectancies by using a model that combined age, sex, and comorbidity.
|25% had an estimated life expectancy of under 10 years|
|Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology|
Among patients who underwent screening colonoscopies, the researchers calculated the percentage of those with life expectancies less than 10 years.
Among the 57,597 Medicare beneficiaries 66 years old or older who received at least 1 screening colonoscopy, 25% had an estimated life expectancy of under 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 at the time of screening colonoscopy.
The research team found that men were substantially more likely than women to have limited life expectancy at the time of screening colonoscopy.
Dr Mittal's team concludes, "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."