Endoscopic ultrasonography was performed in 80 cirrhotic patients and 50 control subjects. The aim of the study was to describe and classify the vascular abnormalities of the gastric wall as observed on echoendoscopy in cirrhotic patients and to compare the data with endoscopy. The size of gastric varices was classified into 3 grades: grade 0 (none), grade 1 (small or non-confluent varices < 5 mm), grade 2 (large or confluent varices > or = 5 mm). The abnormalities of the gastric wall were classified into 3 grades: 0 (none), grade 1 (thickening and brilliance of the third hyperechogenic layer with or without fine internal anechogenic structures), grade 2 (visible vessels in the third layer which deform the entire wall, with penetrating varices). Endoscopy provides better visualization of esophageal varices than echoendoscopy but does not detect gastric varices and the first signs of portal hypertension as well. In conclusion echoendoscopy should be a routine examination for screening portal hypertension in cirrhotic patients and could be used in therapeutic follow-up.