Both in the laboratory and through clinical trials, the interventional endoscopy service at the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases is constantly testing and implementing new technologies and techniques that propel this rapidly growing field forward.
UCLA interventional endoscopists routinely either lead or are part of multicenter research studies in collaboration with other top experts across the country and, in some cases, around the world. UCLA plays a prominent role in presenting and exchanging ideas at national and international meetings. In addition to disseminating findings through published research, our interventional endoscopists serve on national committees and are active in the major gastroenterology professional societies, helping to set guidelines that define and advance the standard of care throughout the country.
The program’s research aims to address practical issues in the field. For example, UCLA has been a leader in patient safety research related to past superbug outbreaks — in particular through the development, in collaboration with industry partners, of a disposable, single-use duodenoscope that is now employed worldwide as a strategy for preventing infections.
A major research project in collaboration with surgical colleagues at UCLA and colleagues through the University of California system is investigating ways to use endoscopy to predict the behavior of pancreatic cysts. By better understanding and characterizing these cysts, which are extremely common, doctors can make better-informed decisions on whether they need to be surgically removed. A recently published study by UCLA’s interventional endoscopy team showed that taking a biopsy of the wall of a cyst can provide valuable information, potentially avoiding the need for unnecessary surgery as well as identifying patients who would benefit most from cyst removal.
UCLA also continues to be a national leader in the use of interventional endoscopy for Barrett’s esophagus — an irritation in the esophageal lining caused by chronic reflux that has become much more common in recent years, in part due to increases in the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a major esophageal cancer risk factor. Many GERD patients go on to develop Barrett’s esophagus, and a subset of those patients are found to have dysplasia. These patients can be treated effectively through endoscopic therapy, and the field is now moving toward being able to predict which Barrett’s esophagus patients without dysplasia will develop the pre-cancerous condition so that those patients can be treated before they reach that point. UCLA has been a driving force in that research and is part of a consortium for Barrett’s esophagus studies.
These and other research efforts not only expand the indications for interventional endoscopy, but also validate its successes so that patients and physicians alike can confidently choose endoscopic procedures with the reassurance that they will be as effective as traditional surgical approaches. Through their research, UCLA’s interventional endoscopists are helping to bring safe, minimally invasive treatments to patients who would not otherwise have access to them.