Click here to learn about locations that have been impacted by weather.

Barrett's Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is known to increase the risk of esophageal cancer many times compared to normal. Estimates indicate that the risk increase is 40-120 times normal, and 0.5% of Barrett’s patients will develop cancer each year.

What is Barrett's Esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus, also known as intestinal metaplasia, is a transformation of the lining of the esophagus caused by exposure to regurgitated gastric contents. This transformed tissue is much more likely to develop esophageal cancer than normal esophageal lining. Acid is not thought to be the sole cause, as there are also enzymes and bile salts in the stomach that can damage the esophagus.  Patients with Barrett’s are more likely to have these other substances present in their stomach and regurgitate them. For this reason, acid-reducing medicine alone may not be effective treatment for Barrett’s esophagus. Many studies have shown surgery to be superior to medications in the treatment of Barrett’s esophagus.

How is Barrett's Esophagus Treated?

Patients with Barrett’s esophagus should have regular endoscopic examinations, and will require extensive endoscopic biopsies, done at the time of EGD, to evaluate for further changes that indicate an even higher risk of cancer. These changes, called dysplasia, are associated with a significant chance of cancer development, and require closer surveillance or additional, more aggressive treatment than medicine alone.

One strategy for managing Barrett’s esophagus is to destroy the abnormal tissue with radiofrequency waves. This endoscopically administered radiofrequency ablation, or HALO procedure, has been shown to be effective in eliminating Barrett’s tissue.  After ablation, patients may choose to continue medical therapy or undergo surgery to control their GERD. Dr. Graybeal has extensive experience in performing the HALO procedure.

Some patients will have high grade dysplasia which can be removed endoscopically, rather than destroyed. Still others may be considered at such high risk of invasive esophageal cancer with their Barrett’s that only surgical removal will be considered reliably safe treatment.

Featured Article: Heartburn Causes Cancer by Dr. Graybeal

"About forty percent of our adult population experiences some type of GERD monthly, many of those much more commonly. That translates into millions of GERD patients in the United States."

Schedule a Consultation

If you have Barrett's esophagus or suffer from regular heartburn or swallowing problems, Dr. Graybeal has two decades of experience diagnosing, treating and curing patients with esophageal disorders. We do all screening and treatment planning in-house and recommend the best treatment approach.