Objective: Adenocarcinoma around the esophagogastric junction (EGJ) is increasing in incidence, and is frequently associated with areas of macroscopic or microscopic intestinal metaplasia (IM). The aim of this study was to define the incidence and type of metaplastic changes in the cardia and at the EGJ in symptomatic patients in whom there was no endoscopic columnar segment.
Methods: Patients attending for open-access gastroscopy had three sets of endoscopic biopsies taken at 3-cm intervals, from cardia, EGJ, and distal esophagus. Hematoxylin and eosin, Alcian blue/PAS (AB/PAS), and high-iron diamine/Alcian blue (AB/HID) were used to define and characterize IM.
Results: Of 225 patients, eight (4%) had carcinoma, eight (4%) had conventional long-segment Barrett's esophagus, 15 (7%) showed endoscopic short-segment Barrett's change, with no endoscopic Barrett's in 194 (86.2%). Of the latter, 34 (17.5%) had IM at the EGJ, and nine (4.6%) had IM at the cardia on hematoxylin and eosin. Acid mucin stains were positive at the EGJ in 135 (69.6%) and at the cardia in 75 (38.7%). Metaplasia at the EGJ was associated with sulphomucins (p < 0.0001) and involved the surface glandular epithelium (p < 0.0001) more frequently than the cardia. Metaplasia was not related to reflux symptoms, hiatus hernia, or endoscopic esophageal inflammation. Ninety percent of those with IM detectable by hematoxylin and eosin were taking acid suppression, compared with 72.8% overall.
Conclusions: Intestinal metaplasia is very common at the esophagogastric junction and gastric cardia, with marked differences in incidence and characteristics of mucin staining between the two sites. The relationship of intestinal metaplasia to the development of carcinoma is yet to be determined.