Barrett's esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition affecting the lining of the esophagus.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder in which stomach contents move up into the esophagus, producing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation and chest pain. In some patients with GERD, the normal esophageal lining is damaged and takes on on a different appearance both endoscopically and microscopically. This is called "intestinal metaplasia" or Barrett's esophagus. Patients with GERD symptoms more than twice a week should consult with their physician.
A diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus requires that the patient undergoes an upper endoscopy procedure by their physician. Endoscopy is a non-surgical procedure and is performed using moderate sedation. Barrett's esophagus tissue appears as a different color on examination, which directs a biopsy of the tissue for pathology evaluation. A finding of intestinal cells in the esophagus (intestinal metaplasia) confirms a Barrett's esophagus diagnosis.
Joint recommendations from medical societies recommend that a patient with Barrett's esophagus should undergo an upper endoscopy procedure with biopsies on a regular basis for the remainder of their lifetime. In addition to surveillance endoscopy approaches for Barrett's esophagus, there are treatment options that include endoscopic and surgical therapy to eliminate the Barrett's tissue completely. Endoscopic procedures include: endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and cryotherapy.