Background: Although Barrett's esophagus (BE) is the precursor of esophageal adenocarcinoma (ACA), most patients with ACA present outside of a BE surveillance program. This could be due to undiagnosed symptomatic GER and BE or BE/ACA occurring in patients without reflux symptoms. We have, therefore, studied the prevalence of BE and symptom status in older patients referred for colonoscopy.
Methods: All patients referred for outpatient colonoscopy were eligible if they were at least 65 yr old and had not previously undergone esophagoscopy. After informed consent, the patients completed detailed GER questionnaires. During the research endoscopy, the endoscopist recorded the squamocolumnar junction (SCJ) as either long-segment BE (LSBE), short-segment BE (SSBE), or normal. If the SCJ was felt to be "irregular" the endoscopist was asked to predict, in their judgment, if BE was present. All patients had biopsies below the SCJ, which were examined by a gastrointestinal pathologist who was blinded to the endoscopic findings.
Results: BE esophagus was present in 50 of the 300 patients studied (16.7%). BE was more common in men (35 of 161, 21.7%) than in women (15 of 139, 10.8%) (p < 0.025). GERD symptoms were reported in 106 patients (35%) and BE was present in 19.8% of symptomatic and 14.9% of asymptomatic cases (NS). The majority of the BE in this study was less than 3 cm in length (92%). The questionnaires did not predict the presence of BE.
Conclusions: BE is common in unscreened male and female patients at least 65 yr of age who are referred for colonoscopy. Men were more likely than women to have BE although it occurred in both sexes. Reflux symptoms were fairly common but a poor predictor of BE.