Purpose: There are no recommendations as to whether endoscopic evaluation of the upper gastrointestinal tract is indicated in asymptomatic patients who have a positive fecal occult blood test and a negative colonoscopy.
Subjects and methods: All asymptomatic patients with a positive fecal occult blood test who were referred for diagnostic endoscopy were identified. Patient charts, endoscopy records, and pathology reports were reviewed.
Results: During the 5-year study period, 498 asymptomatic patients with a positive fecal occult blood test and negative colonoscopy were evaluated. An upper gastrointestinal source of occult bleeding was detected in 67 patients (13%), with peptic ulcer disease being the most common lesion identified (8%). Four patients were diagnosed with gastric cancer and 1 had esophageal carcinoma. In addition, 74 patients (15%) had lesions that were not considered a source of occult bleeding; these findings prompted a change in management in 56 patients (11%). Anemia was the only variable significantly associated with having a clinically important lesion identified (multivariate odds ratio = 5.0; 95% confidence interval 2.9 to 8.5; P <0.001).
Conclusions: Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy yields important findings in asymptomatic patients with a positive fecal occult blood test and negative colonoscopy. Our data suggest that endoscopic evaluation of the upper gastrointestinal tract should be considered, especially in patients with anemia.