Background: Surveying vs. performing resection in patients with high-grade dysplasia in Barrett's esophagus is debated because of concern about the accuracy of endoscopic biopsy diagnosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the accuracy of an endoscopic biopsy protocol in patients with neoplastic abnormalities in Barrett's epithelium without obvious esophageal cancer.
Methods: Preoperative and postoperative diagnoses in 28 patients who underwent surgery for high-grade dysplasia or early adenocarcinoma in Barrett's esophagus and compared them with 22 other patients with high-grade dysplasia who were maintained under prospective endoscopic surveillance. All 50 patients lacked gross lesions to suggest esophageal cancer. The endoscopic protocol involved rigorous, systematic acquisition of multiple, large biopsy samples.
Results: Overall, 64% of patients had minimal but distinct endoscopic abnormalities that were targeted for biopsies. High-grade dysplasia alone (7 patients) was differentiated from early adenocarcinoma (19 patients). Two patients with preoperative diagnoses of intramucosal adenocarcinoma had high-grade dysplasia in their resection specimens.
Conclusions: This endoscopic protocol accurately detects and differentiates high-grade dysplasia from early adenocarcinoma in Barrett's esophagus. Patients with high-grade dysplasia alone in Barrett's esophagus detected by such a protocol do not necessarily require surgical resection to rule out an undiagnosed adenocarcinoma; electing for surgery should be based on other clinical considerations.