Background and study aim: Various gastroscopic features may be interpreted as signs of gastritis, but the significance of such features in relation to histomorphology is uncertain. The aim of this study was to determine how macroscopic findings were related to histomorphological changes and the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the gastric mucosa, in a sample of the general population.
Subjects and methods: 488 adult individuals, randomly selected from a general population, were screened with gastroscopy and biopsy. The macroscopic features recorded were erythema (diffuse, spotty, linear), erosions, absence of rugae in the gastric corpus, and presence of visible vessels. Gastritis was classified microscopically according to the Sydney system. The presence of H. pylori was determined histologically and using the urease test on fresh biopsy specimens.
Results: The sensitivity and specificity of absence of rugae for moderate to severe atrophic gastritis in the gastric corpus were 67 % and 85 %, respectively. Corresponding values for severe atrophy were 90 % and 84 %. The sensitivity and specificity of the presence of visible vessels for moderate to severe atrophy in the corpus were 48 % and 87 %, and for severe atrophy the values were 80 % and 87 %, respectively. Considering the antrum, the sensitivity and specificity of the presence of visible vessels for moderate to severe atrophy was 14 % and 91 %, respectively. With regard to chronic inflammation (moderate to severe in the corpus or antrum), none of the features, alone or in combination, showed a sensitivity of more than 56 %. No endoscopic features (alone or in combination) showed a sensitivity of more than 57 % for H. pylori infection.
Conclusions: Except for the absence of rugae and visible vessels in the gastric corpus, macroscopic features as observed during gastroscopy are of very limited value in the evaluation of whether or not gastritis or H. pylori infection are present. This is in accordance with most previous studies in patient populations, and it must be emphasized that the diagnosis of gastritis should be based on histological examination of the gastric mucosa.