Background and study aims: Endoscopic screening of all dyspeptic patients is not cost-effective, nor is it feasible in many health-care delivery systems. To select the most appropriate candidates, various preendoscopic screening strategies have been proposed, some of which include Helicobacter pylori serology and patient age. We assessed the value of these two criteria in preendoscopic screening of a large series of dyspeptic patients, and compared the results obtained in a referral hospital (university center with an extensive H. pylori research program) with those in nonreferral hospital (participating centers that did not have such a program).
Patients and methods: Blood samples for determination of anti-H. pylori IgG antibody were collected from patients with uninvestigated dyspepsia undergoing endoscopy at one referral hospital and in 93 nonreferral hospitals throughout Italy. For IgG antibody assay, an in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique was used in the referral hospital, while a commercial kit was used in the nonreferral hospitals.
Results: A total of 1638 patients were evaluated at the referral hospital (845 men and 793 women, mean age 46.1 years, range 18-89), and 3281 at the nonreferral hospitals (1718 men and 1563 women, mean age 48.8, range 18-96), respectively. If endoscopy had not been performed in patients who were seronegative for H. pylori and younger than 45 years, 19% versus 17.5% of the tests would have been avoided in the referral and nonreferral hospitals, respectively, while six of 304 ulcers (2%) and no cancers would have been missed versus 35 of 557 ulcers (6.3%) and two of 557 cancers (0.3%).
Conclusions: A screening strategy based on age and H. pylori serology is a valid means of selecting dyspeptic patients for endoscopy; however, the policy needs further refinement for use in nonreferral hospitals.