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Variation in Care for Children With Esophageal Varices: A Study of Physicians', Patients', and Families' Approaches and Attitudes

Gana, Juan Cristóbal*; Valentino, Pamela L; Morinville, Veronique; O'Connor, Constance; Ling, Simon C

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: June 2011 - Volume 52 - Issue 6 - p 751–755
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318213be81
Original Articles: Hepatology and Nutrition

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.

*Division of Paediatrics, Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition Unit, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago

Division of Gastroenterology & Nutrition, Montreal Children's Hospital, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada

Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.

Received 23 November, 2010

Accepted 26 January, 2011

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Simon C Ling, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, the Hospital for Sick Children, Room 8418, 555 University Ave, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada (e-mail:

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2011 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN