Background: Detection of faecal occult blood is recommended for colorectal cancer screening in average risk populations. However, many subjects do not have any cause found in the colon to account for the occult blood loss.
Aims: To determine the prevalence of upper gastrointestinal tract disease in faecal occult blood-positive, colonoscopy-negative patients.
Patients and methods: Retrospective audit of 99 patients (56 females; mean age 60 years, range 18-83) who underwent same-day colonoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy over a 2-year period.
Results: Fifty-two of the 99 patients had a normal colonoscopy, 16 had diverticulosis and 2 had hyperplastic polyps; these 70 patients comprised the colonoscopy-negative group. Significant upper gastrointestinal tract disease was noted in 25 (36%) of the colonoscopy-negative group compared with 10 (34%) of the 29 colonoscopy-positive group (p=ns). Most of the upper gastrointestinal tract lesions identified were benign. Within the colonoscopy-negative group, patients with anaemia or upper gastrointestinal tract symptoms had a higher prevalence of positive findings in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but this association was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: Endoscopic examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract in faecal occult blood-positive individuals reveals mostly benign disease, with an equal prevalence in colonoscopy-negative and colonoscopy-positive patients. Routine performance of upper gastrointestinal endoscopy in faecal occult blood-positive individuals is not indicated and should be undertaken only for appropriate symptoms.