Effects of the Learning Curve on Efficacy of Radiofrequency Ablation for Barrett's Esophagus

Gastroenterology. 2015 Oct;149(4):890-6.e2. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.06.012. Epub 2015 Jun 25.


Background & aims: Complete eradication of Barrett's esophagus (BE) often requires multiple sessions of radiofrequency ablation (RFA). Little is known about the effects of case volume on the safety and efficacy of RFA or about the presence or contour of learning curves for this procedure.

Methods: We collected data from the US RFA Patient Registry (from 148 institutions) for patients who underwent RFA for BE from July 2007 to July 2011. We analyzed the effects of the number of patients treated by individual endoscopists and individual centers on safety and efficacy outcomes of RFA. Outcomes, including stricture, bleeding, hospitalization, and complete eradication of intestinal metaplasia (CEIM), were assessed using logistic regression. The effects of center and investigator experience on numbers of treatment sessions to achieve CEIM were examined using linear regression.

Results: After we controlled for potential confounders, we found that as the experience of endoscopists and centers increased with cases, the numbers of treatment sessions required to achieve CEIM decreased. This relationship persisted after adjusting for patient age, sex, race, length of BE, and presence of pretreatment dysplasia (P < .01). Center experience was not significantly associated with overall rates of CEIM or complete eradication of dysplasia. We did not observe any learning curve with regard to risks of stricture, gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation, or hospitalization (P > .05).

Conclusions: Based on analysis of a large multicenter registry, efficiency of the treatment, as measured by number of sessions needed to achieve CEIM, increased with case volume, indicating a learning curve effect. This trend began to disappear after treatment of approximately 30 patients by the center or individual endoscopist. However, there was no significant association between safety or efficacy outcomes and previous case volume.

Keywords: Cancer Prevention; Database Analysis; Endoscopy; Training.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Aged
  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis
  • Barrett Esophagus / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Esophagoscopy* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hospitals, High-Volume
  • Hospitals, Low-Volume
  • Humans
  • Learning Curve*
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Remission Induction
  • Reoperation
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States

Supplementary concepts

  • Adenocarcinoma Of Esophagus