Objectives: Endoscopic ablation of Barrett's esophagus can bury metaplastic glands under a layer of neosquamous epithelium. To explore the frequency and importance of buried metaplasia, we have conducted a systematic review of reports on endoscopic ablation. Methods: We performed computerized and manual searches for articles on the results of photodynamic therapy (PDT) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for Barrett's esophagus. We extracted information on the number of patients treated, biopsy protocol, biopsy depth, and frequency of buried metaplasia. Results: We found 9 articles describing 34 patients with neoplasia appearing in buried metaplasia (31 after PDT). We found five articles describing a baseline prevalence of buried metaplasia (before ablation) ranging from 0% to 28%. In 22 reports on PDT for 953 patients, buried metaplasia was found in 135 (14.2%); in 18 reports on RFA for 1,004 patients, buried metaplasia was found in only 9 (0.9%). A major problem limiting the conclusions that can be drawn from these reports is that they do not describe specifically how frequently biopsy specimens contained sufficient subepithelial lamina propria to be informative for buried metaplasia. Conclusions: Endoscopic ablation can bury metaplastic glands with neoplastic potential but, even without ablation, buried metaplasia often is found in areas where Barrett's epithelium abuts squamous epithelium. Buried metaplasia is reported less frequently after RFA than after PDT. However, available reports do not provide crucial information on the adequacy of biopsy specimens and, therefore, the frequency and importance of buried metaplasia after endoscopic ablation remain unclear.
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