Prospective identification of Helicobacter pylori in routine gastric biopsies without reflex ancillary stains is cost-efficient for our health care system

Meredith E. Pittman, Armen Khararjian, Laura Delong Wood, Elizabeth A Montgomery, Lysandra Voltaggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite the recommendation of expert gastrointestinal pathologists, private and academic centers (including our own) have continued to use ancillary stains for identification of Helicobacter pylori. For a 1-month period, gastric biopsies were prospectively evaluated for H pylori using routine hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and a reflex Diff-Quik stain. During this time, 379 gastric biopsies were collected on 326 patients. H pylori organisms were prospectively identified in 23 (7%) patients, all of whom had superficial dense lymphoplasmacytic inflammation expanding the lamina propria. An additional 2 patients with neutrophilic inflammation were found to have H pylori by immunohistochemical staining. One patient diagnosed as having normal gastric mucosa was retrospectively found to have inflammation with rare H pylori organisms originally overlooked on both H&E and Diff-Quik but later identified on immunostain (0.5%). No patients with chemical gastritis (16%) or chronic inflammation (27%) were found to have H pylori. During the study month, 9 immunostains for H pylori were performed in addition to the 379 Diff-Quik. After discontinuation of reflex Diff-Quik, approximately 20 immunostains are performed for H pylori each month, which decreases technical time spent for processing gastric biopsies and reduces cost to the health care system. In our population with a low prevalence of H pylori, reflex staining for organisms is not cost-effective. The organisms can be seen on routine H&E; when suspicious superficial or active inflammation is present without visible organisms, immunohistochemical stains will confirm presence or absence within a day. Discontinuation of up-front ancillary studies is cost-effective without compromising patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-96
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Pathology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016



  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Gastric biopsy
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Special stains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this