The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) defines Barrett's esophagus as the condition in which any extent of metaplastic columnar epithelium that predisposes to cancer development replaces the squamous epithelium that normally lines the distal esophagus. Although cardiac mucosa may be metaplastic, its malignant predisposition is not clear, and the AGA still requires the demonstration of intestinal metaplasia (with goblet cells) for a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus. The AGA generally recommends endoscopic eradication therapy for patients with high-grade dysplasia, who otherwise develop esophageal adenocarcinoma at the rate of 6% per year. Endoscopic therapy is often curative for mucosal neoplasms in Barrett's esophagus because the risk of lymph node metastases is only 1-2%. American gastroenterologists generally do not recommend endoscopic therapy for patients whose neoplasms involve any portion of the submucosa because of the high rate of lymph node metastases that has been described in these cases. The management of low-grade dysplasia is disputed because of poor agreement among pathologists on the diagnosis and because of contradictory data on the natural history, but the AGA recommends that radiofrequency ablation (RFA) should be a therapeutic option for patients with confirmed low-grade dysplasia in Barrett's esophagus. Arguments for using RFA to treat nondysplastic Barrett's metaplasia are based on the premise that RFA decreases cancer risk, but no study has established that premise. In the absence of definitive data, concerns about the frequency and importance of buried metaplastic glands and recurrent metaplasia should temper enthusiasm for treating nondysplastic Barrett's esophagus with RFA.
- Barrett's esophagus
- Endoscopic therapy
- Esophageal adenocarcinoma
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas