Barrett's Oesophagus

What is Barrett's Oesophagus?

Barrett’s oesophagus is a change in the normal lining of the lower oesophagus (food pipe) in response to longstanding gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD or reflux).  People can vary widely in the severity of their reflux symptoms (heartburn or regurgitation), but what is concerning is longer duration of GORD symptoms or new onset of persistent symptoms. The exact cause of Barrett’s is not well understood. Other risk factors for Barrett’s apart from reflux include overweight and obesity, smoking and a family history.

What are the symptoms?

Barrett’s often causes no symptoms and is diagnosed only at the time of an upper GI endoscopy (gastroscopy) in those with reflux. This is where a thin, flexible camera is inserted under sedation to examine the oesophagus and small tissue samples (biopsies) are taken to diagnose Barrett’s.

What are the long term risks?

The long-term risk of Barrett’s oesophagus is development of oesophageal cancer.  Whilst this is a very uncommon complication, early identification and regular monitoring is the only way to prevent cancer in people with Barrett’s.

How is Barrett's Oesophagus monitored?

In individuals with Barrett’s gastroscopy is performed usually every 2-3 years in uncomplicated cases for routine monitoring, and more frequently if early pre-cancerous change is identified.  In this scenario, the affected area of Barrett’s can be removed (resected) or destroyed (ablated) using various highly specialised techniques and equipment.

Further Information

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