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Original research
One-stop shop for variceal surveillance: integration of unsedated ultrathin endoscopy into the routine clinic visit
  1. Ali Eqbal1,
  2. Tehara Wickremeratne1,
  3. Stephanie Turner1,
  4. Sarah Elizabeth Higgins1,
  5. Andrew Sloss1,
  6. Jonathan Mitchell1,
  7. James O'Beirne1,2
  1. 1Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, Birtinya, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2Susnhine Coast Health Institute, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ali Eqbal, Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, Sunshine Coast, QLD 4575, Australia; ali.eqbal{at}


Background The endoscopic appearance of oesophageal varices determines the need for prophylaxis. However, as the point prevalence of varices is low (25%), the majority of surveillance endoscopies are unnecessary and costly. Narrow diameter,ultrathin (UT) endoscopes are more tolerable than conventional upper gastrointestinal (UGI) endoscopes and can be used without sedation. We hypothesised that unsedated UT endoscopy for variceal surveillance could be implemented during the routine outpatient clinic visit allowing accurate diagnosis of varices and the timely provision of prophylaxis.

Methods Patients with cirrhosis awaiting surveillance endoscopy were identified. UT endoscopy was scheduled during routine clinic review at the same time as ultrasound surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma. UGI endoscopy was performed unsedated using the E.G Scan II disposable endoscope. Varices were graded using the modified Paquet classification. Video recordings of procedures were reviewed by blinded assessors and agreement was assessed using the kappa statistic.

Results 40 patients (80% male) underwent unsedated UT endoscopy. All procedures were successful and tolerated well in 98% of cases. Median procedure time was 2 min (IQR 1–3). Varices were found in 37.5% (17.5% grade 1 and 20% grade 2). Patients with grade 2 varices were prescribed non-selective beta blockers at the clinic appointment. Kappa statistic for the finding of any varices was 0.636 (p=0.001) and 0.8–1.0 for diagnosis of grade 2 varices (p<0.0001).

Conclusions Outpatient unsedated ultrathin endoscopy in patients with cirrhosis is accurate, safe and feasible. This integrative care model is convenient, particularly for regional communities, and is likely to result in significant cost savings associated with variceal surveillance.

  • cirrhosis
  • clinical decision making
  • endoscopy
  • oesophageal varices
  • health economics

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  • Contributors AE: lead author of the manuscript. TW and ST: provided the blinded analysis of the endoscopy photos and videos. SEH, AS and JM: provided important intellectual content. JO’B: conceived the study and performed the endoscopies. All authors reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. Deidentified participant data are stored securely on a password-protected hospital network computer. Requests for data acquisition can be made to JO’B, ORCID identifier 0000-0003-3400-2816. There are no additional statistical analysis plans.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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