Background: Argon plasma coagulation is one of several techniques used to ablate Barrett's esophagus. This study assessed the efficacy and safety of argon plasma coagulation in the ablation of Barrett's esophagus in patients who have undergone antireflux surgery.
Methods: A total of 40 patients with Barrett's esophagus who had undergone a fundoplication were entered into a prospective, randomized, unblinded study comparing argon plasma coagulation with endoscopic surveillance. Treatment was repeated until either no Barrett's epithelium remained or a maximum of 6 treatment sessions.
Results: One month after the final treatment, complete ablation was achieved in 12 patients. In the remaining 8, a reduction of over 95% was observed. One patient died at 9 months of an unrelated cause. At 1 year, one patient with residual Barrett's epithelium regressed completely, while relapse of Barrett's esophagus was seen in another because of fundoplication failure. Buried glands were observed in 35% patients at 1 month, but only 5% at 1 year. Dysplasia was never seen. In the surveillance group, partial regression was observed in 11 patients, and, in 3 with short-segment Barrett's esophagus, regression was complete. The length of Barrett's esophagus increased in two patients. Two had low-grade dysplasia initially, but this was not evident at 1 year. Overall, complete ablation was achieved in 12 of 19 (63%) patients in the ablation group and 3 of 20 (15%) in the surveillance group (p<0.01).
Conclusions: Argon plasma coagulation of Barrett's esophagus is safe and effective. The effects are durable, and buried glands may resolve with time. Long-term follow-up is required to assess the impact of argon plasma coagulation on cancer risk.