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J Hepatol. 2003 Mar;38(3):266-72.

Incidence and natural history of small esophageal varices in cirrhotic patients.

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II Gastroenterology Unit, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Rome La Sapienza, Viale dell'Università 37, 00185 Rome, Italy.



The incidence and natural history of small esophageal varices (EV) in cirrhotics may influence the frequency of endoscopies and the decision to start a pharmacological treatment in these patients.


We prospectively evaluated 206 cirrhotics, 113 without varices and 93 with small EV, during a mean follow-up of 37+/-22 months. Patients with previous gastrointestinal bleeding or receiving any treatment for portal hypertension were excluded. Endoscopy was performed every 12 months.


The rate of incidence of EV was 5% (95%CI: 0.8-8.2%) at 1 year and 28% (21.0-35.0%) at 3 years. The rate of EV progression was 12% (5.6-18.4%) at 1 year and 31% (21.2-40.8%) at 3 years. Post-alcoholic origin of cirrhosis, Child-Pugh's class (B or C) and the finding of red wale marks at first examination were predictors for the variceal progression. The two-years risk of bleeding from EV was higher in patients with small varices upon enrollment than in those without varices: 12% (95% CI: 5.2-18.8%) vs. 2% (0.1-4.1%); (P<0.01). Predictor for bleeding was the presence of red wale marks at first endoscopy.


In patients with no or small EV, endoscopy surveillance should be planned taking into account cause and degree of liver dysfunction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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