Gastroeosphageal reflux disease has been associated with long segments of Barrett's esophagus </=3 cm), but little is known about its association with shorter segments. The aim of this study was to evaluate anatomic and physiologic alterations of the cardia and esophageal exposure to gastric and duodenal juice in patients with short and long segments of Barrett's esophagus. Furthermore, these patients were compared to each other and to patients with erosive esophagitis and those with no mucosal injury. Two hundred sixty-two consecutive patients with foregut symptoms were divided into the following four groups based on endoscopic and histologic findings: group 1, no mucosal injury; group 2, erosive esophagitis; group 3, short-segment Barrett's esophagus; and group 4, long-segment Barrett's esophagus. Esophageal exposure time to acid and bilirubin, lower esophageal sphincter characteristics, and endoscopic anatomy of the cardia were compared between the groups. Patients with short-segment Barrett's esophagus had elevated esophageal acid and bilirubin exposure, decreased lower esophageal sphincter pressure and length, and a high incidence of hiatal hernia. These abnormalities were similar to those in patients with esophagitis and in general less profound than those found in patients with long-segment Barrett's esophagus. The length of intestinal metaplasia was higher in patients with a defective lower esophageal sphincter. Short-segment Barrett's esophagus is a complication of severe gastroesophageal reflux disease and is associated with the reflux of both gastric and duodenal juice similar to that seen in patients with long-segment Barrett's esophagus.