Background: Barrett's esophagus is mainly regarded as an acquired condition related to increased gastroesophageal reflux. Thus it is conceivable that abolition of acid reflux would lead to its regression. The aim of this study was to assess whether long-term treatment with high-dose omeprazole (60 mg/day) produces a consistent control of gastric acid production and normalizes the esophageal acid exposure, thus reducing the length of Barrett's epithelium.
Methods: Fourteen patients (8 men and 6 women, mean age 52 years) with histologic diagnosis of columnar epithelium longer than 3 cm in the distal part of the esophagus were enrolled and began receiving 60 mg of omeprazole in a single daily morning dose. Before therapy and after 6 and 12 months of therapy, all patients had endoscopy with four-quadrant biopsies at 2 cm intervals. A 24-hour esophagogastric pH recording was performed at entry and after 10 days, 6 months, and 12 months of treatment in all patients.
Results: The initial length of Barrett's epithelium (4.5 +/- 1.9 cm) was significantly reduced after 6 months (3.1 +/- 1.1; p < 0.01) and 12 months (2.1 +/- 1.6; p < 0.005) of treatment. Values were significantly lower at 12 than at 6 months (p < 0.03). The 24-hour mean gastric pH after 10 days (5.89 +/- 0.58), 6 months (5.71 +/- 0.55), and 12 months (5.54 +/- 0.76) of therapy was always higher (p < 0.001) than the basal level (1.9 +/- 0.49). No significant difference in gastric pH was seen over the treatment period. The 24-hour mean percent of time in which pH in the esophagus was below 4.0 decreased significantly (p < 0.001) from a basal rate of 29.4% to 3.5%, 3.0%, and 4.9% in the various time intervals of therapy. There was a normalization of esophageal acid exposure in all patients but two.
Conclusions: It can be concluded that the antisecretory effect of 60 mg/day of omeprazole is consistent and is kept constant throughout the entire 1-year treatment period. The consequent normalization of esophageal acid exposure in almost all patients in our series led to a partial, but significant, regression in the length of Barrett's epithelium.