Background and Aims: Inadequate evidence to guide the management of children with esophageal varices may lead to variation in care and the provision of poor-quality care to some children. The aims of the study were to describe approaches taken by pediatric gastroenterologists for the management of esophageal varices in children, and to determine the attitudes of children, parents, and physicians toward screening endoscopy for identification of varices.
Methods: Canadian pediatric gastroenterologists and hepatologists were questioned about their approaches to screening for esophageal varices and therapy to prevent or treat variceal hemorrhage. Consecutive children with portal hypertension and their parents were surveyed about attitudes to screening endoscopy.
Results: Forty-seven of 72 (65%) physicians responded. Seventy percent of respondents screen for esophageal varices in selected children, most using endoscopy (77%). Fifty-eight percent of respondents who screen for varices would provide primary prophylactic treatment. Most would treat an acute variceal bleed with antibiotics, acid suppression, octreotide, and endoscopy within 24 hours (76%) and then secondary prophylaxis with endoscopic variceal ligation (96%) or β-blockers (28%). Among 29 families surveyed, 63% of parents and 50% of patients would agree to screening endoscopy to understand their risk of variceal bleeding and 67% if prophylactic therapy were available. Families were more concerned about the risk of endoscopic adverse events than were gastroenterologists.
Conclusions: Pediatric gastroenterologists vary in the care they provide for children at risk for esophageal varices and their attitudes toward the role of screening endoscopy differ from that of their patients. Further evidence is required to support practice guidelines that may reduce variation in care and thus improve its quality.