The prognostic significance of the white nipple sign in variceal bleeding was evaluated prospectively in 203 separate admissions for bleeding esophageal varices in 145 cirrhotic patients. During all admissions a standardized protocol of management defined the failure of transfusion and vasoactive drugs (conservative measures) to stop bleeding and the occurrence of early rebleeding, at which time either emergency sclerotherapy or a staple transection of the esophagus was used. The finding of a white nipple in 18 admissions (9%) did not have predictive value as regards the failure of conservative measures to stop bleeding within 24 hours or rebleeding within 5 days, and there was no association with increased mortality. In one case, a white nipple was seen to occur after spontaneous cessation of a variceal venous spurt, suggesting it is a platelet-fibrin plug. The white nipple sign is diagnostic of a varix that has bled but has no adverse prognostic significance.