Background and study aims: Gastric cancer remains a common malignant tumor in Japan. The aim of this study was to attempt a quantitative evaluation of the microvascular architecture observed by magnification endoscopy using image analysis, and to investigate whether this method is able to distinguish between gastric cancers and benign lesions. Patients and methods: A total of 132 patients were studied using magnification endoscopy, and image analysis was performed in 71 patients (32 patients with early gastric cancer, 39 patients with benign lesions). Analysis was not possible in the other 61 patients because the quality of the image was not good enough. A square region of interest was selected from the magnified images of the gastric mucosa. From this we extracted the vascular images corresponding to microvessels and calculated the mean caliber of vessels in the region of interest. Results: Image analysis provided good-quality images of microvessels and enabled evaluation of the microvascular architecture. The mean caliber of vessels was 4.454 pixels in 17 differentiated adenocarcinomas, 4.319 pixels in 15 undifferentiated adenocarcinomas, and 4.034 pixels in the 39 benign lesions. This represented a significant difference between gastric cancers and benign lesions (P < 0.0001). Histopathological investigation of surgically resected tumors demonstrated the mean caliber of microvessels in cancerous lesions to be greater than that of microvessels in the surrounding mucosa. Conclusions: Image analysis was useful for evaluating the microvascular architecture of the gastric mucosa, and calculation of the mean caliber of the vessels may prove helpful in the differential diagnosis of gastric cancers. However, analysis was not possible in 61 of the 132 patients studied because of inadequate image quality, and this represents a significant limitation of this diagnostic method.
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