Objective: In the USA, detection of intestinal metaplasia is a requirement for enrollment in surveillance programmes for dysplasia or adenocarcinoma in columnar-lined oesophagus. In the UK, it is believed that failure to detect intestinal metaplasia at index endoscopy does not imply its absence within the columnarized segment or that the tissue is not at risk of neoplastic transformation. The aim of this study was to investigate the factors predicting the probability of detection of intestinal metaplasia in the columnarized segment.
Material and methods: Demonstration of intestinal metaplasia was analysed in 3568 biopsies of non-dysplastic columnar-lined oesophagus from 1751 patients from 7 centres in the UK. Development of dysplasia and adenocarcinoma was analysed in 322 patients without intestinal metaplasia and compared with that in 612 patients with intestinal metaplasia.
Results: Intestinal metaplasia was more commonly detected in males than in females (odds ratio 1.244), longer segment length (10.3% increase per centimetre) and increasing number of biopsies taken (24% increase per unit increase). After 5 years of follow-up, 54.8% of patients without intestinal metaplasia at index endoscopy demonstrated intestinal metaplasia, and 90.8% after 10 years. There was no significant difference in the rate of development of dysplasia or adenocarcinoma between patients with or without intestinal metaplasia detection at index endoscopy.
Conclusions: Detection of intestinal metaplasia is subject to significant sampling error. It increases with segment length and number of biopsies taken. In the majority of patients, if sufficient biopsies are taken over time, intestinal metaplasia will be demonstrated. The decision to offer surveillance should not be based upon the presence or absence of intestinal metaplasia at index endoscopy as the risk of dysplasia and adenocarcinoma is similar in both groups.