Background and study aims: The value of methylene blue-directed biopsies (MBDB) in detecting specialized intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia in Barrett's esophagus remains unclear. The aim of this study was to compare the accuracy of MBDB with random biopsy in detecting intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia in patients with Barrett's esophagus.
Patients and methods: A prospective, randomized, cross-over trial was undertaken to compare MBDB with random biopsy in patients with Barrett's esophagus segments 3 cm or more in length without macroscopic evidence of dysplasia or cancer. Dysplasia was graded as: indefinite for dysplasia, low-grade dysplasia, high-grade dysplasia, or carcinoma, and was reported in a blinded fashion.
Results: Fifty-seven patients were recruited, 44 of whom were male. A total of 1,269 biopsies were taken (MBDB-651, random biopsie-618). Analysis of the results by per-biopsy protocol showed that the MBDB technique diagnosed significantly more specialized intestinal metaplasia (75 %) compared to the random biopsy technique (68 %; P = 0.032). The sensitivity and specificity rates of MBDB for diagnosing specialized intestinal metaplasia were 91 % (95 % CI, 88 - 93 %) and 43 % (95 % CI, 36 - 51 %), respectively. The sensitivity and specificity rates of MBDB for diagnosing dysplasia or carcinoma were 49 % (95 % CI, 38 - 61 %) and 85 % (95 % CI, 82 - 88 %), respectively. There were no significant differences in the diagnosis of dysplasia and carcinoma - MBDB 12 %, random biopsy 10 %. The methylene blue staining pattern appeared to have an influence on the detection of specialized intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia/carcinoma. Dark blue staining was associated with increased detection of specialized intestinal metaplasia (P < 0.0001), and heterogeneous staining (P = 0.137) or no staining (P = 0.005) were associated with dysplasia and/or carcinoma detection. The MBDB technique prolonged the endoscopy examination by an average of 6 min.
Conclusion: The diagnostic accuracy of the MBDB technique was superior to that of the random biopsy technique for identifying specialized intestinal metaplasia, but not dysplasia or carcinoma. The intensity of methylene blue staining has an influence on the detection of specialized intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia or carcinoma, which may help in targeting the biopsies. Although MBDB prolongs the endoscopy procedure slightly, it is a safe and well-tolerated procedure. Further clinical studies on the MBDB technique exclusively in endoscopically normal dysplastic Barrett's esophagus are needed.