Background and study aims: Attempts to standardize Helicobacter pylori (Hp) diagnosis and therapy have led to the publication of guidelines by various national gastroenterological societies in Europe and the USA. However, little information is available either regarding the compliance of gastroenterologists and referring physicians with these guidelines, or regarding the patients' perspective.
Patients and methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted of all outpatient upper gastrointestinal endoscopy reports for a one-month period in eleven different centers (two university hospitals and nine private practice gastroenterology offices) with a total of 24 gastroenterologists. Endoscopy reports from patients wit the indications of reflux, diarrhea, and tumors were excluded. Diagnoses and treatment recommendations given by gastroenterologists were recorded. Questionnaires concerning Hp diagnosis, treatment indications and performance, and follow-up were sent to referring physicians and patients.
Results: A total of 772 endoscopy reports were included in the study; analyzable questionnaires were returned by 287 referring physicians (47%) and by 265 patients (59%). Gastroenterologists recommended Hp eradication in all ulcers and in 29% of gastritis/nonulcer dyspepsia (NUD) cases. Referring physicians thought that 94% of ulcers should be treated by Hp eradication, which was also considered to be an absolute and relative indication in NUD by 15% and 53% of the referring physicians, respectively. Among the patients who replied, 52% had received Hp eradication regimens; ulcers were found in 22% of the total patient group. Check-up examinations after Hp therapy were considered necessary by 75% of the referring physicians, but only 22% of the responding patients actually underwent some form of check-up (upper gastrointestinal endoscopy in 91%).
Conclusions: Gastroenterologists and (to a somewhat lesser extent) referring physician appear to be following the current guidelines for Hp treatment. As expected, two thirds of referring physicians consider NUD to be absolute or relative indication for Hp eradication. Check-up examinations are apparently being performed less frequently than recommended.