Objective: Intestinal metaplasia of the gastroesophageal junction is frequently grouped together with Barrett's esophagus. The area of the gastroesophageal junction is comprised of the distal esophagus and the gastric cardia. The aim of the present study was to assess whether intestinal metaplasia in the distal esophagus and gastric cardia represent two different entities with a different set of risk factors.
Methods: Patients presenting for elective upper endoscopy were enrolled into a prospective study. The presence of gastritis and intestinal metaplasia was evaluated in gastric biopsies taken from the antrum, corpus, and cardia. Barrett's esophagus was defined by the presence of any length of columnar mucosa above the gastroesophageal junction.
Results: Of 302 patients, 50 patients had intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia, 73 Barrett's esophagus, and 116 erosive esophagitis. Men were more prone than women to develop Barrett's esophagus or erosive esophagitis. Both conditions were also more common among whites than nonwhites. Smoking was particularly common among patients with Barrett's esophagus. Patients with cardiac intestinal metaplasia did not share these demographic characteristics. The prevalence of daily reflux symptoms, erosive esophagitis, and Barrett's esophagus was similar among patients both with and without cardiac intestinal metaplasia. However, atrophy and intestinal metaplasia of the gastric antrum and corpus were found more frequently among patients with than without cardiac intestinal metaplasia.
Conclusions: Intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia is different from Barrett's esophagus. Although cardiac intestinal metaplasia is closely associated with signs of gastritis in other parts of the stomach, gastroesophageal reflux disease does not seem to be a risk factor. A diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus should not be made based on the presence of intestinal metaplasia within the cardiac portion of the gastroesophageal junction.