Objective: It is unclear whether the gastric cardia is present from birth or is metaplastic and develops as a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease. To this end, we evaluated the histology of the entire esophagogastric junction in consecutive pediatric autopsies to determine the presence and extent of cardiac mucosa.
Methods: The entire esophagogastric junction of 33 consecutive pediatric (< or =18 yr) autopsies was examined. The precise location of the squamocolumnar junction and its relationship to the esophagogastric junction was noted in all cases. Slides were evaluated by two pathologists in a blinded fashion to look for cardiac mucosa, characterized by unequivocal periodic acid-Schiff (PAS)-positive mucous glands in a lobular configuration. Sections from the antrum and esophagogastric junction were examined for the presence of Helicobacter pylori.
Results: Three cases were excluded due to autolysis. The mean age of the 30 remaining patients was 6.3 yr (range: 16 days-18 yr). A regular-appearing squamocolumnar junction was identified at the esophagogastric junction in all 30 cases. Cardiac mucosa was present in all specimens (mean length: 1.8 mm; range: 1.0-4.0 mm), always on the gastric side of the esophagogastric junction. There was no significant association between patient age or gender and length of cardiac mucosa. None of the patients had a known history of gastroesophageal reflux disease or Barrett's esophagus, and none were taking acid-suppressing medications before death. All were negative for Helicobacter pylori by Giemsa stain.
Conclusions: In an unselected pediatric patient population with little or no propensity for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a short segment of cardiac mucosa was consistently present on the gastric side of the esophagogastric junction, independent of gender or age. These results support the concept that the gastric cardia is present from birth as a normal structure.