Background/goals: Esophageal varices (EV) in early histological stages of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) have been recognized but not well defined. We sought to determine the prevalence, clinical characteristics, and predictors of EV in early-stage PBC, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of recent guidelines regarding EV screening in PBC patients.
Study: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 325 PBC patients who had undergone complete evaluation before enrollment into 2 large clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic.
Results: Nineteen percent (62/325) of our patient population had EV on esophagogastroduodenoscopy; 6% (8/127) of early-stage PBC patients had EV. Ninety five percent of our PBC patients with varices met at least one of the following conditions: male sex, low albumin (<3.5 g/dL), elevated bilirubin level (≥1.2 mg/dL), and/or prolonged prothrombin time (≥12.9 s). The sensitivity and specificity of these variables in combination to predict the presence of varices were 95% and 55%, respectively. Serum bilirubin ≥1.2 mg/dL and albumin <3.5 were independent predictors of varices with hazard values of 5.4 and 3.5 respectively.
Conclusions: EV can occur in a minority of early-stage PBC patients. Various models may be used to identify PBC patients who are candidates for screening esophagogastroduodenoscopy for EV. Based on adequate performance and its simplicity, we propose that male sex, low albumin, elevated bilirubin, and/or prolonged prothrombin time be used as a model to noninvasively predict EV. Further validation is required.