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Barrett's Oesophagus

What is the Oesophagus?
The oesophagus (also called the food pipe or gullet) is the tube that connects to mouth with the stomach.

What is Barrett’s Oesophagus?
Barrett’s oesophagus is a condition whereby the normal lining of the lower part of the oesophagus (“squamous cell” lining) is replaced by a different cell type (“intestinal cells” lining). It occurs as a complication of longstanding gastro-oesophageal reflux.

How is Barrett’s Oesophagus diagnosed?
Barrett’s oesophagus is diagnosed during a gastroscopy , where the normal pale and glossy appearance of the oesophagus is replaced by a pink or red appearance.
Small tissue samples or biopsies are taken to confirm the diagnosis of Barrett’s oesophagus, and also to determine whether any other abnormal cells are present.
Barrett’s oesophagus cannot be diagnosed on the basis history, physical examination, blood tests of x rays.

What are the symptoms of Barrett’s Oesophagus?
People with Barrett’s oesophagus may experience the typical symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, including heartburn/indigestion or regurgitation. These symptoms are due to reflux, and not the Barrett’s oesophagus per se.

What is the treatment of Barrett’s Oesophagus?
The aim of treatment is to control the symptoms of reflux and prevent ongoing damage to the lower oesophagus by stomach acid. Medications which are often prescribed include esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Losec), rabeprazole (Pariet) and pantoprazole (Somac). These medications are not a cure for Barrett’s oesophagus.

What are the complications of Barrett’s Oesophagus?
Barrett’s oesophagus is associated with a higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer (0.5 to 1% per year). Additionally, it is important to note that that abnormal area of Barrett’s oesophagus does not usually disappear with treatment. Consequently, a two yearly surveillance gastroscopy with biopsies is recommended for individuals who are diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus. The frequency of surveillance may be increased if any abnormal cells (known as “dysplasia”) are detected on biopsies.

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