Barrett’s esophagus is a medical condition that is also referred to as columnar epithelium lined lower oesophagus (CELLO) or barrett syndrome. This medical condition is characterized by an abnormal change (known as metaplasia) that takes place within the cells situated in the lower part of the esophagus.
The abnormal change takes place in the normal tissue lining of the esophagus and the transformation highlights the change of esophageal squamous ephithelium into intestinal type mucosa or tissues that resemble those present on the intestinal lining.
Barrett’s esophagus is considered as a serious complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and this complication is known to increase the risk of a rare and fatal cancer known asesophageal adenocarcinoma.
What are the initial symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus?
It is difficult to determine the initial symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus as the medical condition does not reveal any. The only way to determine the symptoms as recommended by most physicians is to undergo biopsies and endoscopy. This is especially recommended for adults aged 40 years or more and who have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. The probability of this medical condition occurring is higher in patients who have been suffering from GERD for at least a few years.
How is Barrett’s esophagus diagnosed?
The only examination that can be conducted for determining Barrett’s esophagus symptoms is upper gastrointestinal (UGI) endoscopy. The upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is a medical procedure that is performed by an interventional radiologist or a surgeon.
UGI will allow a doctor to look into the interior lining of your stomach, esophagus, and duodenum (the first section of your small intestine). This procedure is conducted using an endoscope, which is a medical device with an attached light source and camera and it enables looking deeper into organs or body cavity.
If the upper gastrointestinal endoscopy results appear suspicious then the surgeon or medical practitioner will remove several small parts of the tissue for further examination. This process is often termed as biopsy. It is the job of a pathologist to examine the tissue parts using a microscope as this will assist in determining the diagnosis.
If you have Barrett’s esophagus then the microscopic evaluation will point out the remarkable difference in tissues. The stratified squamous epithelium tissues that are lining your esophagus will have a pale pearly color while the color of the columnar epithelium tissues will be salmon.
Standard endoscopic imagery or UGI is useful only for detecting visible lesions and will not be able to detect subtle or early mucosal changes.
Narrow band imaging (NBI)
Narrow band imaging (NBI) is one of the newer high-resolution endoscopic imaging techniques that can be used as it aids in enhancing a finer structure of your mucosal surface. This technique is currently used for identifying cancer and dysplasia that arises from Barrett’s mucosa.
Laser Confocal Microscopy
The third technique that can be used is laser confocal microscopy and it is also a fairly new procedure. It allows subsurface analysis of intestinal mucosa as well as in-vivo histology during an endoscopic procedure. A recent study has revealed that use of laser confocal microscopy can reveal symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus with a sensitivity of 98.1%.