Objective: Barrett's esophagus has been associated with adenocarcinoma of the esophagogastric junction and gastric cardia. The purpose of this study was to determine whether patients with Barrett's esophagus have a higher prevalence of intestinal metaplasia involving the gastric cardia than those without Barrett's esophagus.
Methods: Two groups of patients were compared for the prevalence of intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia. Group 1 included 50 patients with well-defined Barrett's esophagus who were being followed in an endoscopic surveillance program. Group 2 consisted of 104 individuals participating in a separate study identifying the prevalence of cardia intestinal metaplasia in patients undergoing elective upper endoscopy. Both groups had biopsy specimens taken from the gastric cardia. Eleven patients in group 2 were found to have Barrett's esophagus and were excluded from the analysis. Histological evidence of intestinal metaplasia was defined as specialized columnar epithelium containing goblet cells staining with Alcian blue at pH 2.5.
Results: The prevalence of cardia intestinal metaplasia in the 50 patients in group 1 (Barrett's esophagus) was 22%, whereas the prevalence in the 93 patients in group 2 (no Barrett's esophagus) was 24%, which was not a statistically significant difference. A significant difference between groups still could not be identified when the results were examined with regard to equal number of biopsy specimens taken. None of the patients in either group had dysplasia identified within the cardia intestinal metaplasia.
Conclusions: Patients with Barrett's esophagus do not have a higher prevalence of intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia than those presenting for routine endoscopy. Although intestinal metaplasia of the gastric cardia is a relatively common finding, dysplasia is uncommon. Therefore, we suggest that screening biopsy specimens of the gastric cardia in patients with Barrett's esophagus be limited to study protocols at this time. In addition, we believe that these data raise the question of whether a true association exists between Barrett's esophagus and gastric cardia cancer.