Background: Thermoablation is being used to eliminate the metaplastic epithelium of Barrett's esophagus and allow its reversal into squamous epithelium in an acid-controlled environment. This study assessed the efficacy and safety of a new thermoablation technique, argon plasma coagulation.
Methods: Patients with circumferential Barrett's esophagus 2 to 5 cm long were enrolled. Acid suppression was accomplished with lansoprazole. One-half the circumference of Barrett's mucosa was treated with argon plasma coagulation, and the other half served as an internal control. After macroscopic squamous re-epithelialization occurred, biopsy specimens were obtained from both areas systematically.
Results: Nine patients, all men with a mean age of 51.1 years, completed the study. During 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring a pH less than 4 occurred on average 2.8% of the time with a mean dose of lansoprazole of 70 mg/day. Squamous re-epithelialization developed in treated areas in all 9 patients. Biopsy showed that 7 of 9 patients (77.8%) had squamous re-epithelialization without intestinal metaplasia. Biopsy showed that 2 of 9 patients (22.2%) had squamous re-epithelialization with evidence of underlying intestinal metaplasia. There were no serious complications.
Conclusions: Argon plasma coagulation in an acid-controlled environment was both efficacious and safe in the treatment of Barrett's esophagus. However, the reappearance of squamous epithelium after therapy did not exclude the presence of underlying intestinal metaplasia.