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Dig Liver Dis. 2008 May;40(5):312-7. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2007.12.007. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Diagnosis and monitoring of portal hypertension.

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  • 1Department of Medical Sciences, University of Milan, Italy.


Currently, oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy is the standard method to diagnose the presence of oesophago-gastric varices and to estimate the risk of bleeding. It is recommended that all patients undergo endoscopic screening for varices at the time when cirrhosis is diagnosed. After screening endoscopy, patients with medium or large varices should be treated to prevent bleeding, while all other patients should undergo periodic surveillance endoscopy. However, at a given point in time a variable proportion of patients will not have varices, since the prevalence of varices is variable. Thus, screening all cirrhotic patients with endoscopy to detect the presence of varices implies a number of unnecessary endoscopies. In recent years a wealth of new methods have been proposed as alternatives to conventional oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy for the non-invasive or minimally invasive diagnosis of oesophageal varices. Three of these methods (the platelet count/spleen diameter ratio, Fibrotest and Fibroscan) are truly non-invasive. Of these, the former is promising and needs a proper validation, Fibrotest appears to be insufficiently precise, while Fibroscan needs further evaluation. Multidetector CT oesophagography and capsule endoscopy are not entirely "non-invasive", since the first requires air insufflation into the oesophagus via an orally passed tube, and the latter requires swallowing the capsule. Multidetector CT oesophagography is promising, but needs further evaluation; capsule endoscopy is safe and reliable and might be proposed as an alternative to oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy in patients unable or unwilling to undergo oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy.

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