Barrett esophagus: histology and pathology for the clinician

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Aug;6(8):478-90. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2009.103. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


The incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The major precursor to this type of adenocarcinoma is Barrett esophagus, which is defined as the conversion of normal squamous epithelium into metaplastic columnar epithelium. Abundant evidence suggests that adenocarcinoma in the setting of Barrett esophagus develops via a progressive sequence of histological and molecular events. Consequently, patients with Barrett esophagus routinely undergo endoscopic surveillance for early detection of neoplasia. Histological evaluation of mucosal biopsy samples from the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction for identification of goblet cells and evaluation of the presence, grade and extent of dysplasia is the mainstay of risk assessment for these patients. This Review provides physicians with a summary of the pertinent, clinically relevant histological features of Barrett esophagus and its neoplastic complications. The histology of Barrett esophagus and the gastroesophageal junction is summarized, and an overview of information necessary to interpret pathology reports from patients either with or without endoscopic evidence of Barrett esophagus is provided to appropriately guide management of patients. Close interaction between the clinician and the pathologist is essential for proper interpretation of biopsy results and to provide optimal surveillance or treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans