Objective: Periodic endoscopic surveillance is generally recommended for patients with Barrett's esophagus. The optimal follow-up strategy for uncomplicated Barrett's esophagus is controversial, in part because of limited data on the rate of neoplastic progression (through the sequence of metaplasia-dysplasia-carcinoma) during endoscopic surveillance. This study aims to quantify the development of dysplasia in patients with uncomplicated Barrett's esophagus and to explore clinical risk factors associated with the development of dysplastic lesions.
Methods: We identified 102 patients with endoscopic evidence of Barrett's esophagus and the presence of specialized columnar epithelium who had received endoscopic surveillance for adenocarcinoma at our medical center between 1970 and 1994. We abstracted endoscopic and histologic data from the medical record. All specimens that showed any degree of atypia (per report) were reexamined in blinded fashion by a team of study pathologists who indicated the grade of dysplasia. Time to first diagnosis of dysplasia was plotted using Kaplan-Meier survival curves, and risk factors for development of dysplasia were assessed using Cox regression.
Results: During 563 patient-yr of endoscopic follow-up, three patients developed adenocarcinoma at least 4 yr after initial diagnosis (one developed adenocarcinoma of the cardia, which was incidentally detected during surveillance for Barrett's esophagus). At some point during follow-up, 19 patients developed new onset, low grade dysplasia and four developed high grade dysplasia. None of the patients who had received antireflux surgery developed dysplasia.
Conclusion: If confirmed by larger follow-up studies, our results suggest that surveillance endoscopy can be safely deferred for at least 2 yr following an initial biopsy that is negative or indeterminate for dysplasia. Adoption of this approach would substantially reduce the cost of surveillance for adenocarcinoma. Future trials should explore the role of antireflux surgery in protecting against neoplastic transformation of Barrett's esophagus.