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Carcinoma of the esophagus and esophagogastric junction: sensitivity of radiographic diagnosis.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the sensitivity of barium studies in revealing carcinoma of the esophagus and esophagogastric junction.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 50 cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus (n = 25) and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus (n = 14) or esophagogastric junction (n = 11) in which double-contrast (n = 46) or single-contrast (n = 4) barium studies had been done. The original radiology reports were reviewed to determine whether the lesions had been seen on barium studies and whether cancer had been diagnosed. Records were also reviewed to determine the number of patients who underwent esophageal endoscopy because of findings suggestive of cancer on barium studies at some point from January 1992 through December 1992. Pathology records were then reviewed to determine the number of true- and false-positive barium studies during this same period.

RESULTS: Lesions were shown on barium studies in 49 (98%) of 50 patients, and carcinoma of the esophagus or esophagogastric junction was diagnosed or suspected in 48 patients (96%). In a separate part of the study, we found that endoscopy had been recommended to rule out malignant tumor in only 26 (1%) of 2484 patients who underwent barium studies at some point from January 1992 through December 1992. Endoscopy revealed cancer in 11 of those 26 patients; the remaining 15 were assumed to have false-positive radiologic examinations. Barium studies therefore had a positive predictive value of 42%.

CONCLUSION: The double-contrast barium study is a sensitive technique for the diagnosis of carcinoma of the esophagus and esophagogastric junction. This high sensitivity can be achieved while recommending endoscopy in only about 1% of all patients who undergo barium studies.

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