Barrett's esophagus

Gastroenterology. 2002 May;122(6):1569-91. doi: 10.1053/gast.2002.33427.


Barrett's esophagus is an acquired condition resulting from severe esophageal mucosal injury. It still remains unclear why some patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease develop Barrett's esophagus whereas others do not. The diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus is established if the squamocolumnar junction is displaced proximal to the gastroesophageal junction and if intestinal metaplasia is detected by biopsy. Despite this seemingly simple definition, diagnostic inconsistencies remain a problem, especially in distinguishing short segment Barrett's esophagus from intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia. Barrett's esophagus would be of little importance were it not for its well-recognized association with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma continues to increase and the 5-year survival rate for this cancer remains dismal. However, cancer risk for a given patient with Barrett's esophagus is lower than previously estimated. Current strategies for improved survival in patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma focus on cancer detection at an early and potentially curable stage. This can be accomplished either by screening more patients for Barrett's esophagus or with endoscopic surveillance of patients with known Barrett's esophagus. Current screening and surveillance strategies are inherently expensive and inefficient. New techniques to improve the efficiency of cancer surveillance are evolving rapidly and hold the promise to change clinical practice in the future. Treatment options include aggressive acid suppression, antireflux surgery, chemoprevention, and ablation therapy, but there is still no clear consensus on the optimal treatment for these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology
  • Barrett Esophagus / complications
  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis*
  • Barrett Esophagus / physiopathology
  • Barrett Esophagus / therapy*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mass Screening
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prevalence