The value of barium meal examination in the management of younger patients with dyspepsia has been seriously questioned as diagnostic yield is reported to be low with only minor abnormalities detected. Our 9 month survey of general practice and hospital out-patient use of barium meal examination in the City and Hackney Health District during 1983-84 shows that 51% of patients investigated were less than 50 years and 20% less than 30 years of age, suggesting that clinicians have not heeded these warnings. However, 30% of the younger patients had barium meal mucosal abnormalities. Over all age groups abnormalities were more prevalent in men and in general practice rather than hospital out-patient referrals (59% vs 45%; P less than 0.02). Previous studies may therefore have underestimated the prevalence of barium meal abnormalities in younger patients, and continued use of this examination in such patients may indicate that clinicians have found the results helpful in patient management.
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