Objectives: In Barrett's esophagus, early adenocarcinomas are often missed on endoscopic biopsy. We therefore examined the distribution and extent of dysplasia and carcinoma in the resected esophagus for comparison with the preoperative biopsy findings.
Methods: Patients whose endoscopy showed Barrett's esophagus but no visible cancer had four-quadrant esophageal biopsies taken every 2 cm. After resection for high-grade dysplasia or early adenocarcinoma, the esophagus was mapped histologically.
Results: Nineteen patients had surgery for high-grade dysplasia; two of them (10.5%) had adenocarcinoma in the resected esophagus. Eleven patients had resection after a biopsy diagnosis of adenocarcinoma or suspicion of adenocarcinoma. Esophagectomy mapping confirmed carcinoma in only five of them. Median surface areas were: total Barrett's esophagus 32 sq cm, low-grade dysplasia 13 sq cm, high-grade dysplasia 1.3 sq cm, adenocarcinoma (seven cases) 1.1 sq cm.
Conclusions: Areas of high-grade dysplasia and microscopic carcinoma in Barrett's esophagus are often small. Biopsy differentiation between these lesions is difficult. A systematic endoscopic biopsy protocol will reduce the chance of missing early malignancy in Barrett's esophagus.