Background/aims: The primary prevention of bleeding from esophageal varices is a major therapeutic issue requiring early screening of esophageal varices. Our aim was to study the diagnostic accuracy of non-endoscopic means for the diagnosis of esophageal varices.
Methods: Sixty-three clinical, biochemical, endoscopic and Doppler ultrasound variables were prospectively recorded in 207 consecutive patients with chronic liver disease. Diagnostic accuracy was evaluated by discriminant analysis, first globally using all variables with diagnostic accuracy > or = 65% in univariate analysis, then by stepwise regression.
Results: A) whole group (n=207), 1) diagnosis of esophageal varices: diagnostic accuracy was globally 81%, and 81% with 1 variable: irregular liver surface at ultrasound, 2) Diagnosis of large esophageal varices (grades 2+3): diagnostic accuracy was globally 80%, and 79% with 2 variables: prothrombin index, gamma-globulins. B) patients with cirrhosis (n=116), 1) diagnosis of esophageal varices: diagnostic accuracy was globally 71%, and 72% with 2 variables: platelet count, prothrombin index, 2) diagnosis of large esophageal varices (grades 2+3): diagnostic accuracy was globally 71%, and 72% with 3 variables: platelet count, prothrombin index, spider naevi. The ROC curve showed that the best threshold for the diagnostic accuracy of platelet count was 160 G/l providing a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 58%. Platelet count > or = 260 G/l has a negative predictive value > or = 91%.
Conclusions: Using a few non-endoscopic criteria, esophageal varices can be correctly diagnosed in 81% of patients with chronic liver disease and in 71% of patients with cirrhosis. These results show that the non-invasive screening of patients who are candidates for the primary prevention of variceal bleeding is possible, but should be improved before being used in a clinical setting.