Barrett's Esophagus can develop in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis). The condition is marked by precancerous changes to the lining of the esophagus most commonly caused by acid reflux from GERD. Barrett's esophagus increases the risk for esophageal cancer, which can grow rapidly.
While some do not have any symptoms, those who have had regular or daily heartburn for more than five years may be at risk for Barrett's esophagus and should discuss the possibility with their doctor. Symptoms include waking during the night because of heartburn pain, vomiting, blood in vomit or stool, and difficulty swallowing.
Diagnosis involves an endoscopy to look at the lining of the esophagus and a biopsy to examine a sample of tissue. To perform an endoscopy, the doctor gently guides a long, thin tube called an endoscope through the mouth and into the esophagus. The scope contains instruments that allow the doctor to see the lining of the esophagus and to remove a small tissue sample, called a biopsy.
The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage by stopping acid reflux. Your doctor may prescribe acid-blocking medications and recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals, stopping smoking if you smoke, avoiding foods that aggravate heartburn and elevating the head of your bed to prevent reflux during sleep.
If medications and lifestyle changes do not work, surgery to remove damaged tissue or a section of the esophagus itself may be necessary.
Sometimes the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes thick and hardened, causing strictures, or narrowing of the esophagus. Strictures can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach.
BÂRRX Radiofrequency Ablation
For patients with early-stage Barrett's esophagus, a new treatment option is BÂRRX radiofrequency ablation. Those with advanced disease who are not surgical candidates may also qualify. Through a catheter, electrodes are used to heat and destroy Barrett's tissue during an outpatient procedure.