Barrett Esophagus Pathology

Barrett esophagus pathology explained

When cells in the gullet grow abnormally, the condition is known as Barrett's esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube which runs from the mouth to the stomach. In order for the esophagus to work properly, it is lined with specific tissue. Now, the Barrett esophagus pathology explained.

However, in cases of Barrett's esophagus, tissue which is similar to the lining of the intestines replaces esophageal tissue.

Although Barrett's esophagus itself may not cause any symptoms, many of the people who have this condition also suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can cause heartburn, nausea and chest pain. As a result, people often associated these symptoms with Barrett's esophagus.

What do we know about Barrett esophagus pathology?

In order to diagnose Barrett's esophagus, physicians will perform a gastrointestinal endoscopy. This involves placing a camera down the patient's throat in order to provide images of the esophagus. In most cases, a biopsy of the tissue is also taken.

Barrett esophagus pathology then requires that the biopsy is examined in a laboratory setting by a certified pathologist. Although the tissue present in cases of Barrett's esophagus is markedly different from standard esophageal tissue, Barrett esophagus pathology may be complicated.

As the condition may be present in just a small area of the esophagus, a number of small biopsies must be taken. If physicians only examine one area of the esophagus, the condition could easily be missed or misdiagnosed. Due to this, a pathologist who specializes in Barrett's esophagus is often required to examine the biopsied tissue in order to determine if the condition is present.

Who does Barrett's esophagus affect?

Although anyone can suffer from the condition, there are some notable characteristics associated with the majority of suffers. Risk factors may include being over the age of 50, being Caucasian, smoking, having a familial history of the condition or having relatively high levels of stomach fat.

If a patient experiences chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease or suffers from frequent episodes of gastroesophageal reflex disease, and presents with at least two of the risk factors, they should be screened for Barrett's esophagus.

Can Barrett's esophagus be treated?

In most cases, treatment for Barrett's esophagus is aimed at reducing the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. If these symptoms, such as nausea and heartburn, can be reduced, the patient may not even be aware of the underlying condition.

However, there are also specific lifestyle changes which can help to reduce symptoms and manage the condition. Losing weight, if it is necessary, can be effective in reducing the frequency of heartburn. Similarly, smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake can also help to prevent attacks of gastroesophageal reflux disease from occurring.

Patients are also advised to eat small meals regularly, rather than leaving long periods of time in between food intake. In addition to this, acid reducing medications may be prescribed, if beneficial for the patient.

If symptoms still persist, surgeons may perform a fundoplication. This involves strengthening the valve at the bottom of the esophagus and can prevent the patient from experiencing painful acid reflex.

Are there any complications arising from Barrett's esophagus?

Although Barrett's esophagus itself is not a form of cancer, it can increase the risk developing cancer in the future. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is a relatively rare type of cancer but patients with Barrett's esophagus may be more likely to develop the disease. If dysplasia occurs, it means that the cells in the esophagus have been subject to change but cancer is not yet present.

If medical interventions are carried out at this time, the affected cells can be removed and the risk of cancer developing can also be minimized. It's essential, therefore, that patients with Barrett's esophagus are monitored regularly and that periodic surveillance endoscopies are carried out.

If potential cell changes are anticipated, surgeons can take action quickly and potentially prevent the patient from developing cancer. As esophageal cancer can be difficult to treat, early intervention when dysplasia occurs can be life-saving.

Although Barrett esophagus pathology can be complex, once a diagnosis has been made, treatment can be effective in managing the condition. Whilst patients may be concerned about the increased risk of cancer developing, if Barrett's esophagus is monitored regularly, potentially cancerous cells can be removed quickly and efficiently.

Last Reviewed:
July 16, 2017
Last Updated:
October 24, 2017