Call us on 020 7183 7965

The History and Future of Colonoscopy

A quantum advance in abdominal surgery.” – Dr. Francis Moore

When were colonoscopies first performed?

Modern day colonoscopies were first performed in 1969 when the procedure was a revolutionary one. Developing and perfecting the colonoscopy took time and medical professionals met with many difficulties in the beginning. Dr. William I. Wolff and his colleague, Dr. Hiromi Shinya, were the first people to develop the procedure as a way to diagnose colon cancer and other bowel-related issues.

Although many doctors around the world were looking for modern ways to examine the colon with the use of a tube with electric sensors, Wolff and Shinya made some of the most important and pioneering advances in the research field.

What did Wolff and Shinya do for colonoscopy research and development?

One of Wolff and Shinya’s most notable advances was the development of a device that could remove polyps (small growth) during the colonoscopy. This meant there was no need for patients to go through a second procedure to remove them after their colonoscopy.

They popularised the method of using one doctor rather than two during a colonoscopy which went on to become the medical standard worldwide. Together they published various articles which detailed the safety and importance of this new procedure and paved the way for the future of colonoscopic investigation. In 1999, an article of theirs was named as one of the most important of the 20th century by the journal Seminars in Colon and Rectal Surgery.

Before Wolff and Shinya’s development of colonoscopies, surgeons could only reach ten inches into the bowel before being blocked by the organ’s natural curves. The new colonoscope was able to reach to at least five feet of the colon, manoeuvring through its twists and turns and lighting the way for detailed images of the whole area.

How are colonoscopies advancing at present?

With the rise of the technological age, further advances have been made within the field of colonoscopy. The quality of images improves every year. Our private gastroenterologists working in the best central London hospitals now have access to the very latest and highest resolution scopes offered by the world leading giants Olympus and Pentax.

One other example of recent advances is a colonoscopy simulator that helps trainee surgeons to understand and practice the procedure using the latest gaming technology and computer based simulations.

CSIRO's colonoscopy simulator, developed using the latest computer gaming technology
CSIRO’s colonoscopy simulator, developed using the latest computer gaming technology

Advances like these mean future surgeons can learn even more about how the colonoscope works before actually performing the procedure.

Medical research is vital in all medical fields and advancements in colonoscopic procedures are almost inevitable in the future. Examples like the one above show how important technology is now to medical science.

Many people thought colonoscopies were unnecessary and did not justify the dangers associated with the procedure when it was first introduced into the medical field. However, with research and continued progress, the colonoscopy has become one of the most frequently used procedures for identifying colon-related problems today. Of course, as time moves on, we are finding even newer ways to image the insides without doing any invasive tests at all. CT pneumocolon is continuing to develop.

Please refer to our guide on colonoscopies for more information on these procedures or Contact Us on 020 7183 7965 for more information or to make an appointment with one of the London Gastroenterology Centre’s expert consultants.


We are available to see patients daily.

For a private consultation contact us on
020 7183 7965

Find your nearest practice location

Start typing and press Enter to search

Call Now