Background: Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) sometimes suffer from obscure gastrointestinal bleeding. Portal hypertension (PH), common in cirrhosis, induces esophagogastric varices. Because of the location, PH also may influence mucosal abnormalities in the small intestine. The objective of this study is to estimate the prevalence of small intestinal mucosal abnormalities in HCC patients using capsule endoscopy (CE).
Patients and Methods: We prospectively conducted CE in HCC patients, and analyzed the findings in relation to hepatic function, the number and size of HCC tumor and findings obtained by conventional endoscopy.
Results: Thirty-six patients (aged 66.7 ± 7.5 years, 29 men) underwent CE. Abnormal findings in the small bowel were found in 16 patients (44%), angioectasias in eight patients (22%), erosions in five (14%), varices in four (11%), polyps in four (11%), and submucosal tumor in one (3%). The patients with angioectasia had a larger spleen index than the no abnormal lesions group (85.4 ± 15.8 vs 59.0 ± 24.4, P = 0.02). The former group had been more frequently treated for esophageal varices endoscopically (62% vs 15%, P = 0.02). Large HCC nodules seemed more common in the patients with angioectasia than subjects without abnormal lesions (38% vs 5%, P = 0.06). Small intestinal varices also seemed to have a positive association with large HCC. During the follow up after CE, one patient with small intestinal polyps suffered from obscure gastrointestinal bleeding.
Conclusions: CE revealed that HCC patients frequently have small intestinal mucosal lesions. In particular, small intestinal angioectasia, which may cause obscure gastrointestinal bleeding, seems to be associated with portal hypertension.