Background: Antireflux therapy has generally failed to induce regression of Barrett's epithelium. It was hypothesized that squamous epithelium could be restored if the columnar tissue was ablated while gastric acid secretion was suppressed.
Methods: Ten white men with Barrett's esophagus received 40 mg of omeprazole daily. Thereafter, every 2-5 weeks they underwent videotaped endoscopies to argon laser photoablate columnar tissue, obtain biopsy specimens, and assess results. Squamous re-epithelialization was assessed by correlation of videotapes and directed biopsies.
Results: Patients had one to eight areas ablated, totaling 0.5-12.0 cm2. Videotape assessments were corroborated by biopsy in all but one instance. Thirty-eight of 40 treatment locations partially or completely re-epithelialized with squamous tissue. Squamous regrowth appeared to occur by spread from contiguous squamous borders and de novo from glandular tissue. Regrowth was influenced by the extent of squamous borders and completeness of ablations. Nonablated glandular tissue persisted beneath squamous epithelium.
Conclusions: Ablation of Barrett's epithelium and suppression of acid secretion facilitated squamous re-epithelialization. A progenitor cell within the metaplastic tissue has the potential to differentiate normally.