Barrett metaplasia: reassessment of treatment and follow-up

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Purpose of review

The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma continues to rise in the Western world, with a mean 5-year survival of less than 20%. There has therefore been increasing interest in the precursor lesion, Barrett’s esophagus. However, adenocarcinoma will not develop in most patients with Barrett’s esophagus. This review summarizes the data on the management of Barrett’s esophagus that have been published since January 2003.

Recent findings

The control of reflux symptoms significantly improves quality of life, and surgical antireflux therapy may gradually cause regression of the Barrett segment compared with proton pump inhibitor therapy. The data substantiate the claim that the cancer risk in Barrett esophagus is lower than had hitherto been suggested. The risk factors for progression include increasing age and length of segment, macroscopic inflammatory changes, loss of heterozygosity over several genetic loci, and increased proliferation status. The extent of high-grade dysplasia may not accurately predict cancer development, and continued surveillance, rather than intervention, for such patients may decrease the chances of curative treatment. Long-term follow-up data are beginning to accumulate for nonsurgical treatment strategies. Chemoprevention trials are under way to evaluate the role of acid suppression and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and their derivatives.


At this time, endoscopic surveillance and surgical management remain the mainstay, but continued research efforts should enable risk stratification and cancer prevention in the future.

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