Reflux disease and Barrett's esophagus

Endoscopy. 1999 Jan;31(1):9-16. doi: 10.1055/s-1999-13643.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common clinical problem. New information suggests that infection with Helicobacter pylori may protect patients from developing GERD and its complications. Endoscopy may be used by clinicians to tailor GERD therapy, but an empirical trial of a proton-pump inhibitor may be an alternative diagnostic approach. Studies continue to show that laparoscopic antireflux surgery is a cost-effective treatment option for patients requiring maintenance therapy with proton-pump inhibitors. However, the minimally invasive nature of the operation should not alter the indications for antireflux surgery, especially for patients with atypical symptoms. It remains unclear why some patients with GERD develop Barrett's esophagus, whereas others do not. Recent guidelines suggest that patients with long-standing GERD symptoms, especially white men over 50 years of age, should undergo endoscopy at least once to screen for Barrett's esophagus. Debate concerning short-segment Barrett's esophagus continues. Intestinal metaplasia at a normal-appearing gastroesophageal junction may be associated with intestinal metaplasia of the stomach and infection with H. pylori, whereas short tongues of intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus are associated with GERD. Cancer surveillance is indicated in short-segment Barrett's esophagus, as dysplasia may develop in these patients. Barrett's esophagus is the only known risk factor for the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma, but the incidence of adenocarcinoma may be lower than previously reported. New clinical guidelines for endoscopic surveillance suggest that the surveillance interval should be lengthened to every two years in patients without dysplasia. Newer treatment options, such as thermal ablation and photodynamic therapy, continue to show promise, but are not yet ready for routine clinical use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis
  • Barrett Esophagus / etiology*
  • Barrett Esophagus / therapy
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Humans