Background and study aims: In several series, argon plasma coagulation (APC) combined with acid suppression has led to short- or medium-term eradication of Barrett's esophagus. The present study was designed to assess the long-term outcome after this treatment.
Patients and methods: 39 patients with Barrett's esophagus, seven of them with low-grade dysplasia, underwent APC and received 40 mg omeprazole daily for eradication of the metaplastic epithelium. After the treatment period, patients were randomly assigned to receive 20 or 40 mg omeprazole daily for long-term acid suppression. Histological and endoscopic changes were evaluated annually. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to test the following 10 variables as predictors of sustained reversal of Barrett's esophagus at the end of follow-up: age, gender, length of diseased segment, presence of hiatal hernia, circumferential nature of lesion, presence of low-grade dysplasia at initial biopsy, number of coagulation sessions, result of pH monitoring under protein pump inhibitor (PPI) treatment, omeprazole dosage, and initial response to therapy (after 1 month).
Results: The median follow-up period was 36 months (range 12 - 48). The endoscopic and histological relapse rates at 1, 12, and 24 months, and end of follow-up were, respectively, 30 % and 44 % (12/39 and 17/39), 57 % and 54 % (16/28 and 15/28), 60 % and 57 % (17/28 and 16/28), and 62 % for both rates (23/37). According to multivariate analysis, shorter length of diseased segment and normalization of pH with PPI treatment were the only independent predictors of sustained long-term re-epithelialization. Among the seven patients with low-grade dysplasia, four experienced relapse after 1 month, and during the long-term follow-up, one was lost to follow-up and all the others experienced relapse, but only one developed low-grade dysplasia again. Cancer was found in two cases after 12 and 18 months, respectively.
Conclusions: Persistence of acid reflux and greater length of diseased segment are the major factors associated with a high relapse rate after successful initial reversal. APC for ablation of Barrett's esophagus cannot be recommended.