Utility of liquid-based cytologic examination of distal esophageal brushings in the management of Barrett esophagus: a prospective study of 45 cases

J Am Soc Cytopathol. 2015 May-Jun;4(3):113-121. doi: 10.1016/j.jasc.2014.09.208. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


Introduction: The goal of Barrett esophagus surveillance is to identify high-grade dysplasia (HGD) for eradication. Surveillance programs currently rely on limited histologic sampling; however, the role of cytology in this setting is not well studied.

Materials and methods: From December 1, 2011 to March 30, 2014, 45 patients underwent 4 circumferential brushings of the distal tubular esophagus followed by standard 4-quadrant biopsies. One ThinPrep slide and 1 Cellient cellblock (Hologic, Boxborough, Mass) were prepared. Six cytopathologists evaluated each for adequacy, intestinal metaplasia (IM) and dysplasia. Findings were classified using the traditional 5-tier system used for biopsies. A prospectively modified 3-tier cytologic classification was also tested: negative for HGD, indeterminate for HGD, and HGD. Sensitivity, specificity, and kappa values (interobserver agreement) for cytology were calculated.

Results: Ten of 45 patients had nondiagnostic cytologies; none of whom had dysplasia on biopsy. Cytology had good sensitivity (82%) and specificity (88%) for identifying IM compared with biopsy with moderate interobserver agreement (pairwise average of Fleiss and Krippendorf kappa value = 0.589, 79% agreement). One case had IM on cytology not detected on histology. Six of 45 patients had dysplasia on biopsy including 1 intramucosal adenocarcinoma, 1 indeterminate for dysplasia, 2 high-grade dysplasias, and 2 low-grade dysplasias. A non-negative adequate cytology sample had a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 88% and 94% for the 5-tier and the 3-tier classification, respectively.

Conclusions: Cytology appears to have good sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis of HGD, and cytology may be poised to synergize with advances in other techniques for management of patients with Barrett esophagus. Improvements in brushing devices may help to decrease the nondiagnostic rate.

Keywords: Barrett esophagus; Dysplasia; Esophageal brushing; Intestinal metaplasia; Liquid-based cytology.