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Sharma P, Saini SD, Kuhn LB, Rubenstein JH, Pardi DS, Marrero JA, Schoenfeld PS. Knowledge of hepatocellular carcinoma screening guidelines and clinical practices among gastroenterologists. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2011 Feb 1; 56(2):569-77.
BACKGROUND: Screening of high-risk patients for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may result in early diagnosis and improved outcomes. Our aim was to assess gastroenterologists' knowledge of HCC management guidelines established by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and usual clinical practice. METHODS: We surveyed gastroenterologists attending two gastroenterology board review courses regarding their knowledge of HCC screening guidelines and usual practice of screening for HCC. Practices were compared and adherence to the 2005 published HCC guidelines was assessed. RESULTS: The median age of gastroenterology attending physicians (n = 160) was 41 years, and 75% were men with a median of 11.5 years of practice. A total of 79% of respondents correctly identified the high-risk patients who qualify for HCC screening. Most gastroenterologists correctly identified the screening methods (88.5%) and screening interval (98%). Among those who knew guideline recommendations (i.e., correct identification and certainty of guideline recommendations), 100% reported that they followed the guideline recommendation in their own practices. Regarding the management of abnormal test, 31% of gastroenterologists did not identify that referral for liver transplantation is the recommended management strategy for small HCC in a Child B patient with cirrhosis. The number of years in clinical practice (p = 0.30) and involvement in a malpractice suit (p = 0.34) did not affect the practice patterns. CONCLUSIONS: Most gastroenterologists correctly identified the common high-risk scenarios, methods, and interval of HCC screening as recommended by AASLD. Gastroenterologists who knew the HCC guidelines applied them in their own practice. However, approximately one-quarter do not know the appropriate management of a positive result, thereby likely hampering the overall effectiveness of screening.