RADIOFREQUENCY ABLATION (RFA) FOR BARRETT’S ESOPHAGUS

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition affecting the lining of the esophagus, the swallowing tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.  Barrett’s esophagus is caused by injury to the esophagus from the chronic backwash of stomach acid that occurs with acid reflux. There are no symptoms specific to Barrett’s esophagus, other than the typical symptoms of acid reflux (or GERD), ie. heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain.

In some people, the damage and inflammation associated with acid reflux can cause genetic changes that cause the normal esophagus tissue to change into intestinal tissue. When that happens, it is called Barrett’s esophagus (your doctor may refer to it as intestinal metaplasia). It is estimated that 13% of the people who have chronic acid reflux also have Barrett’s esophagus.

Until recently, Barrett’s Esophagus was managed with repeated upper endoscopy exams to try to detect early signs of transformation to cancer at an early stage.  High risk patients required surgery to remove the esophagus (esophagectomy) to prevent cancer formation and cure.  A major advance in the field of gastroenterology came about with the use of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to ablate Barrett’s and allow for normal tissue to grow in its place.  RFA causes a superficial burn of the esophagus involved with Barrett’s.  RFA is actually quite safe and effective.  Patients are sedated in the standard fashion as a normal upper endoscopy.  The endoscope is used to identify Barrett’s and align the ablation catheter to specifically treat Barrett’s and avoid the normal esophagus lining.  Patients go home the same day.  The procedure can be repeated at 2-3 month intervals until Barrett’s Esophagus has been cured.

Several studies have recently confirmed that this procedure is safe with a very low complication rate.  The procedure has been proven to prevent the onset of esophageal cancer.  Not all patients with Barrett’s Esophagus are recommended to undergo RFA, discuss with your doctor if you are a candidate.

Gastroenterologists receive specialized training to perform RFA.  Dr. Khaghan and Dr. Schamberg perform these procedures at Greenwich Hospital, they are the only physicians in the eastern Westchester and Southwestern Connecticut region to perform this procedure.

 

For more information about Barrett’s Esophagus and RFA, follow this link: