Background/aims: Few studies have compared the precision of various diagnostic tests used to determine the presence of Barrett's esophagus. The aim of this study was to compare the results of histological, endoscopic, and manometric tests for patients with Barrett's esophagus in two closely spaced examinations.
Methods: In a Veterans Administration Cooperative Study, 192 patients with complicated gastroesophageal reflux disease had esophageal manometry and endoscopy performed at baseline and after 6 weeks. At each examination, the endoscopist localized the most proximal level of Barrett's epithelium and the lower esophageal sphincter and obtained esophageal biopsy specimens.
Results: One hundred sixteen patients met the criteria for Barrett's esophagus on at least one of the two endoscopic examinations. Among patients with specialized columnar epithelium, 20% had specialized columnar epithelium found on only one of the two examinations. Although the mean lower esophageal sphincter level did not change, approximately 10% of patients had a change > or = 4 cm on endoscopy and manometry between examinations. This led to an apparent change in the diagnosis in 18% of patients with Barrett's esophagus.
Conclusions: From one endoscopic examination to another, inconsistencies in the ability to detect specialized columnar epithelium are common. This may lead to substantial problems in establishing an accurate diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus.