GERD & Barrett’s Esophagus Treatment in Marion & Salem, KY

What is Barrett’s Esophagus?

 Barrett’s Esophagus, also called BE, is a complication of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) that causes the lining of the esophagus to become more like intestinal tissue. Symptoms are different in every patient who has Barrett’s, but they can appear as heartburn, the sensation of indigestion, regurgitation, or other experiences related to GERD. However, some people don’t see any symptoms, or they are infrequent.

Diagnosing Barrett’s Esophagus

To diagnose Barrett’s Esophagus, you must see a gastroenterologist for a diagnostic endoscopy of the esophagus. If the doctor sees red, “fuzzy” looking tissue, you will likely require a biopsy to test for Barrett’s Esophagus as normal esophageal tissue appears more pale and smooth.

One of our providers will determine how far the tissue has changed, because if the tissue is very different, you may be more at risk for esophageal cancer. Generally, this is ranked by the level of dysplasia, also known as inflammation or abnormal cell growth. In Barrett’s Esophagus, it is ranked as follows:

  • No dysplasia: Barrett’s Esophagus is present, but no cancerous cell growth
  • Low-grade dysplasia: Cells show precancerous development
  • High-grade dysplasia: Cells likely will become cancerous

How Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed: upper endoscopy and capsule endoscopy exams

Barrett’s esophagus can only be diagnosed by viewing the lining of the esophagus through a procedure called an upper endoscopy – a non-surgical procedure performed using conscious sedation. The endoscope is a thin, flexible tube that is guided down the throat. The tube has a video lens and light at its tip that transmits images to a video monitor so the doctor can inspect the esophagus and capture pictures of the tissue. There are even newer, thinner endoscopes that can be passed through the nose.

There are also new, small capsules with built-in cameras that can be swallowed. As it passes through your digestive system, the camera transmits video to a recorder on your belt. Your doctor can look at the video to see if there are changes in the lining of the esophagus. It does not, however, allow for biopsy tissue samples to be taken.

Treating Barrett’s Esophagus

We use Gastroesophageal Radiofrequency Ablation with the Medtronic Barrx™ system to remove the epithelium in a brief endoscopic procedure. Radiofrequency Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure, in which either a flexible balloon catheter or small focal catheter is inserted into the esophagus, and radiofrequency is applied to the cells, destroying abnormalities. Since the procedure doesn’t involve any incisions, chance of complication is low.

Facts About Barrett’s Esophagus

  • In a study published in 2005, Barrett’s esophagus was estimated to affect approximately 3.3 million adults over 50 years of age in the United States.2,3
  • People with Barrett’s esophagus are 30 to125 times more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus than the general population.7
  • The incidence of esophagus cancer has risen about six-fold in the U.S. since the 1970s. It is rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma.10, 16
  • While the average age at diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus is 50, it is difficult to determine when the disease developed and thus, how long a patient has been affected.
  • Men develop Barrett’s esophagus twice as often as women, and Caucasian men are affected more often than men of other races. Barrett’s esophagus is uncommon in children.

If you have frequent or long-standing acid reflux symptoms, you should consult a physician. Left untreated, acid reflux can lead to the development of pre-cancerous cells. In a small percentage of patients, that can result in a life-threatening cancer of the esophagus (esophageal adenocarcinoma or EAC).

Barrx Treatment for GERD and Barrett’s Esophagus in Salem and Marion, KY

If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD or Barrett’s Esophagus, come to Tri-Rivers Healthcare for treatment. Serving Salem, KY and Marion, KY, Dr. Barnes specializes in treatment of GERD and Barrett’s Esophagus.