The location and frequency of intestinal metaplasia at the esophagogastric junction in 223 consecutive autopsies: implications for patient treatment and preventive strategies in Barrett's esophagus

Mod Pathol. 2000 Jun;13(6):614-20. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3880106.


The frequency of intestinal metaplasia at the esophagogastric junction is as high as 36% in endoscopy studies; the majority of cases (approximately 67%) occur in short segments of esophageal columnar mucosa. The validity of these studies has been questioned, however, because of heterogenous underlying diseases prompting endoscopy. To determine the frequency and origin of intestinal metaplasia at the esophagogastric junction, we histologically evaluated the entire esophagogastric junction for the presence of intestinal metaplasia using Alcian blue/periodic acid-Schiff mucin stains in 223 consecutive autopsies. Precise localization of the Z line in relation to the esophagogastric junction and tongues of esophageal columnar-appearing mucosa were noted in each case. Mean patient age was 47 years; 69% of patients were male, and 63% were white. Twenty five of 223 cases (11%) had intestinal metaplasia at the esophagogastric junction. Only 2 of 25 cases (8%) had intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus; the remaining 23 cases (92%) had intestinal metaplasia in the gastric cardia. Male gender, advanced age, white ethnic origin, and short tongues of esophageal columnar mucosa were not associated with gastric cardia intestinal metaplasia. An association of distal gastric intestinal metaplasia (P < .01) and chronic gastritis (P < .01) with gastric cardia intestinal metaplasia suggests a role for Helicobacter pylori infection in this process. The frequency of intestinal metaplasia at the esophagogastric junction in an unselected autopsy population is low (11%) even after exhaustive histologic evaluation using Alcian blue mucin stains. Furthermore, intestinal metaplasia is confined to the gastric cardia in more than 90% of cases with no association to male gender, white ethnic origin, advanced age, or the presence of short segments of esophageal columnar-appearing mucosa at endoscopy. These results demonstrate that caution is warranted when applying the findings of endoscopy studies to the development of preventive and screening strategies aimed at identifying Barrett's esophagus in an asymptomatic general population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy
  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology*
  • Cardia / pathology
  • Child
  • Esophagogastric Junction / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology