Promising New Treatment for Barrett's Esophagus

  • Radiofrequency ablation is a medical  treatment in which the targeted cells are treated with a high frequency alternating current.  The current destroys or "ablates" the diseased tissue.  This process had been used in the past for cardiac conditions and tumors of the lung, kidney, breast and bone among other things.  

    You might be wondering what this has to do with acid reflux. Well a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that radiofrequency ablation is a promising treatment for patients with Barrett's Esophagus (1).  Barrett's is thought to be caused, in part, by acid reflux or GERD (2).  

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    Barrett's is a disease in which the cells lining the esophagus change into cells similar to the lining of the intestines.  This process is called metaplasia and in a small portion of patients these changes can turn into a form of esophageal cancer.  

    The entire procedure for Barrett's takes about 30 minutes.  According to the study just over 90% of the participants with small amounts of damage had complete removal of their dysplasia.  For those with larger amounts approximately 81% had complete removal of the dysplasia.  This could be an excellent way to help prevent some of the cancers caused by the Barrett's and untreated GERD.

    Half of patients with Barrett's do not have any symptoms so it is important to discuss screening for patients with a long history of acid reflux disease or GERD.  Researchers are hopful that this treatment will eliminate a large portion of the esophageal cancer cases caused by Barrett's Esophagus.  This is wonderful news for the acid reflux community!

Published On: July 26, 2009