Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic esophagitis, which is inflammation of the esophagus.
Barrett's esophagus is characterized by a change in the cells lining the esophagus. Normal cells are flat-shaped (squamous) cells, while Barrett's esophagus cells are shaped like a column. This cell change is called
. It is a premalignant phase that may eventually result in cancer of the esophagus if untreated.
The exact cause of Barrett's esophagus is unknown. However, it may result from damage to the esophagus caused by the chronic reflux of stomach acid. Frequent or chronic reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus is called
gastroesophageal reflux disease
, or GERD.
Once the cell changes of Barrett's esophagus occur, the changes are permanent. The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage by stopping the reflux of acid from the stomach. Treatment may include:
The following types of medications may be prescribed:
blockers, such as:
Proton pump inhibitors, such as:
If the disease is severe or the medication is unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical options may include:
—part of the upper stomach is wrapped around the esophagus; this is done to reduce further damage caused by GERD
Esophagectomy—removal of the Barrett's segment of the esophagus
Ablation of the abnormal lining by several methods—photodynamic therapy (PDT), argon plasma coagulation (APC), multipolar electrocoagulation (MPEC), heater probes, lasers, cryotherapy, and
(Most of these techniques are investigational, except for PDT.)
Your doctor may recommend endoscopy about (or at least) every 1-3 years to monitor the esophagus for early signs of cancer. This recommendation must be individualized for each person.
The best way to prevent Barrett's esophagus is to minimize and/or treat the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus, which is usually due to GERD. In addition to drugs or surgery, self-care measures for GERD include:
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a