Barrett’s Oesophagus

What is Barrett’s Oesophagus?

Barrett’s Oesophagus refers to a condition that is caused by reflux of acid from the stomach into the oesophagus (GORD). The acid can injure the lining of the oesophagus causing ulceration. As the tissue tries to heal, the cells undergo a change (metaplasia). Instead of looking like normal oesophagus lining, they resemble the lining of the small bowel or stomach.

Diagnosis of Barrett’s Oesophagus

The normal lining of the oesophagus is “white” when viewed with a gastroscope. The lining of the stomach / small bowel is red. Where the oesophagus and stomach meet, a distinct line of “white meets red” is seen – the “Z” line. When Barrett’s change occurs, there is an extension of “red” tissue upward along the oesophagus and the Z line becomes irregular. Biopsies reveal cells that look more like small bowel than oesophagus. This confirms a diagnosis of Barrett’s.

Health Risks of Barrett’s Oesophagus

Barrett’s oesophagus itself is not an indication of cancer, but carries a slightly higher risk. For most patients, this will not be an issue. However, a minority of these can progress; though the progression may take years. As ongoing damage occurs, the specialized cells of Barrett’s can transform to odd-looking cells known as “dysplasia”. When it reaches a certain stage of dysplasia (eg. high grade dysplasia), the likelihood of finding cancer or a “hidden” cancer is particularly high. If you are concerned about Barrett’s Oesophagus or have symptoms that you think may be related to Barrett’s Oesophagus, we would be happy to help.

upper-gi-surgery-Barrett's Oesophagus

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