Indy Gastro | Colonoscopy, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, endoscopy

Barrett’s Esophagus

Definition:

The esophagus is a hollow tube beginning at the very back of the pharynx (throat) and ending at the stomach. Its function is to transport swallowed food and liquid from the throat through the chest into the stomach. Some patients who have chronic reflux esophagitis (inflamed tissue) develop a change in the type of cells that line the bottom part of the esophagus. The cells resemble those that line the stomach or even the small intestine. This change within the esophagus is called Barrett's Esophagus. These cell changes can increase risk for esophageal cancer.

Cause and Symptoms:

Barrett’s Esophagus is usually associated with prolonged reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. There appears to be a genetic predisposition to this condition that, in the presence of acid reflux, can occur. The condition itself does not cause symptoms unless it has progressed to cancer of the esophagus at which time one can have heartburn, difficulty swallowing, chest pain and dark tarry stools.

Diagnosis:

Tissue samples are taken during an Esophageal Gastric Endoscopy and analysis is done for abnormal cells. 

Treatment

  • Medications: Medications are used to prevent stomach acid from coming up into the esophagus.
  • Surgery: In certain circumstances with the use of endoscopy the physician can remove the damaged cells from the esophageal wall. In severe cases surgery may be needed to help tighten the stomach valve to help keep stomach acid from refluxing into throat. If the condition develops into esophageal cancer, surgery may be required to remove cancer tissue.
  • Ablation: Radiofrequency waves that produce heat may be used to burn away the abnormal cells in the esophagus during a procedure called ablation.
  • Monitoring: Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus may have frequent monitoring with Esophageal Gastric endoscopy. The frequency of needed exams will depend on type of abnormal cell growth found.  


Summary:

Barrett’s esophagus is found more frequently in Caucasian males over the age of 50.  The older you are the more you smoke the more likely you are to be diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus should be monitored closely by a physician. Note:  Not everyone that has reflux has Barrett’s esophagus.

Organizations

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
www.asge.org

American Gastroenterological Association
www.gastro.com

American College of Gastroenterology
www.acg.gi.org


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