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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2007 Jan;188(1):139-44.

Esophageal varices in cirrhotic patients: evaluation with liver CT.

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Department of Radiological Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 10833 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1721, USA.



The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of routine helical liver CT in the detection and grading of esophageal varices in cirrhotic patients.


A total of 67 consecutive cirrhotic patients who underwent both upper endoscopy and helical liver CT within a 4-week interval were evaluated. The CT protocol included unenhanced, arterial, and portal phases with a collimation of 7-7.5 mm. Two blinded abdominal imagers (6 and 7 years' experience) retrospectively interpreted all CT images to detect the presence of esophageal varices on a 5-point confidence scale and measure the largest varix identified. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was performed, and the correlation between CT measurements and endoscopic grading, the reference standard, was assessed.


The variceal detection rates for the observers was 92% (11/12) and 92% (11/12) for large (i.e., clinically significant) varices, 53% (16/30) and 60% (18/30) for small varices, and 64% (27/42) and 69% (29/42) for all varices. The area under the ROC curve for the detection of esophageal varices of any size was 0.77 (observer 1) and 0.80 (observer 2). CT variceal grading showed a strong correlation with endoscopic grading for both observers (p < or = 0.001). Using a variceal diameter threshold of 3 mm on CT, sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy for distinguishing large esophageal varices from small or no varices were 92% (11/12), 84% (46/55), and 85% (57/67), respectively, for both observers.


Liver CT is useful for the detection and grading of esophageal varices. A diameter of 3 mm may be an appropriate screening threshold for large clinically significant varices.

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