For those of you who have never heard of it, Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition of the lining of the esophagus caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Left untreated, backward flow of stomach contents such as acid and bile into the esophagus can lead to injury and chronic inflammation of the esophagus lining. With prolonged acid exposure, normal cells can undergo a genetic change and transform into taller columnar cells. These Barrett’s cells are vulnerable to further changes that can lead to cancer.
A proportion of GERD patients are thus at risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal adenocarcinoma, a lethal cancer with a five-year survival rate of approximately 15%. Approximately 44% of U.S. adults experience symptoms of GERD almost monthly while 18% experience symptoms weekly. A result of prolonged GERD, Barrett’s esophagus occurs in approximately 13% of Caucasian men over the age of 50.
How is Barrett’s esophagus diagnosed?
A physician may evaluate a patient for Barrett’s esophagus if the patient has severe or prolonged GERD symptoms. Even if a patient’s heartburn or GERD symptoms disappear, the patient could still have Barrett’s esophagus or worse, the condition could have progressed to more advanced stages of the disease. To diagnose Barrett’s a physician performs an endoscopy, a procedure that allows inspection and tissue sampling of the esophagus.
How is Barrett’s esophagus treated today?
Patients diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus are treated for GERD symptoms and advised to return at scheduled intervals ranging from every three months to every three years for a repeat endoscopy and tissue inspection. This “watch and wait” approach is called surveillance. The objective of surveillance is to monitor the progression of the disease. However, surveillance can be burdensome for the patient in many ways. First, an endoscopy requires a visit to the hospital, anesthesia and multiple tissue samples (biopsies) extracted from the patient’s esophagus. Patients typically need a few days to recover. This recovery period usually includes a modified diet of liquid or soft foods.
What is HALO ablation technology?
The HALO ablation technology is a very specific type of ablation, in which heat energy is delivered in a precise and highly-controlled manner, and has been used to treat Barrett’s esophagus for more than fifteen years. HALO ablation technology can completely remove the diseased tissue without damaging the normal underlying structures of the throat.
Clinical studies have demonstrated the Barrett’s tissue can be completely eliminated with the HALO ablation technology in 98.4% of patients. In March of 2011, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) issued the AGA Medical Position Statement on the Treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus. The guideline recommends removal of precancerous cells in patients with confirmed high-grade Barrett’s esophagus utilizing endoscopic eradication therapy, such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) technology as delivered by the HALO Ablation System.
This HALO Ablation Therapy procedure is performed in conjunction with an upper endoscopy in an outpatient setting and no incisions are involved. The procedure lasts about 15 minutes. At this time, The Bon Secours Harbour View Endoscopy Center is the only facility in Hampton Roads to offer this therapy.
What happens if Barrett’s esophagus goes untreated?
Untreated Barrett’s esophagus can advance from its earliest stage of intestinal metaplasia to low or high-grade dysplasia, and result in the development of a type of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma. Patients with intestinal metaplasia have a combined risk of 1.4% per year of progressing to high-grade dysplasia or cancer, which may result in an esophagectomy procedure. The majority of patients who develop an advanced esophageal cancer are unaware that they have Barrett’s esophagus.
How can patients find out more about the ablation procedure?
If you suspect that you have GERD or Barrett’s Esophagus we recommend that you speak with your primary care physician. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, like those at the Bon Secours Harbour View Endoscopy Center for further evaluation.
Source: BÂRRX Medical, Inc. develops endoscopic treatment solutions for Barrett’s esophagus and other chronic gastroenterological diseases. Barrett’s is a precancerous condition of the lining of the esophagus (swallowing tube) caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. The company’s HALO90, HALO90 ULTRA and HALO360+ ablation catheters, driven by the HALOFLEX ablation system provide a uniform and controlled ablation effect, which removes diseased tissue and allows re-growth of normal cells. www.barrx.com.