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, 8 (3), 276-88

Barrett's Esophagus: Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, Functional Abnormalities, Malignant Degeneration, and Surgical Management


Barrett's Esophagus: Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, Functional Abnormalities, Malignant Degeneration, and Surgical Management

H J Stein et al. Dysphagia.


Barrett's esophagus (i.e. columnar epithelial metaplasia in the distal esophagus) is an acquired condition that in most patients results from chronic gastroesophageal reflux. It is a disorder of the white male in the Western world with a prevalence of about 1/400 population. Due to the decreased sensitivity of the columnar epithelium to symptoms, Barrett's esophagus remains undiagnosed in the majority of patients. Gastroesophageal reflux disease in patients with Barrett's esophagus has a more severe character and is more frequently associated with complications as compared with reflux patients without columnar mucosa. This appears to be due to a combination of a mechanically defective lower esophageal sphincter, inefficient esophageal clearance function, and gastric acid hypersecretion. Excessive reflux of alkaline duodenal contents may be responsible for the development of complications (i.e., stricture, ulcer, and dysplasia). Therapy of benign Barrett's esophagus is directed towards treatment of the underlying reflux disease. Barrett's esophagus is associated with a 30- to 125-fold increased risk for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. The reasons for the dramatic rise in the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma, which occurred during the past years, are unknown. High grade dysplasia in a patient with columnar mucosa is an ominous sign for malignant degeneration. Whether an esophagectomy should be performed in patients with high grade dysplasia remains controversial. Complete resection of the tumor and its lymphatic drainage is the procedure of choice in all patients with a resectable carcinoma who are fit for surgery. In patients with tumors located in the distal esophagus, this can be achieved by a transhiatal en-bloc esophagectomy and proximal gastrectomy. Early adenocarcinoma can be cured by this approach. The value of multimodality therapy in patients with advanced tumors needs to be shown in randomized prospective trials.

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