Treating Barrett’s Esophagus with Endoscopic Radiofrequency Ablation

Barrett’s esophagus is when repeated acid reflux causes the cells that line the esophagus to be replaced by the cells that are normally found in the intestine.  Around 10% of people with chronic GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus.  Barrett’s esophagus itself is not life-threatening, but a small percentage of people who have Barrett’s esophagus will eventually develop esophageal cancer.

Until recent years the only option to reduce the risk of cancer growth from abnormal cells that are found in patients with Barrett’s esophagus was surgery.  Endoscopic ablation is much less invasive.  Endoscopic ablation uses radio frequency to create heat that is generated by radio waves to selectively destroy tissue in the esophagus that has precancerous cells.

A fairly recent study showed that endoscopic radiofrequency ablation completely eradicated the abnormal cell growths lining the esophagus in more than 77% of those who received the treatment.  During the endoscopic radiofrequency ablation treatment, a balloon with a set of electromagnetic coils is placed in the location of the esophagus that has abnormal cell growth.  The electromagnetic coils have energy that is passed through them.  This method allows for a very reliable depth of burn that is able to kill the abnormal cells on the inner surface without damaging the whole organ.  In the above mentioned study there were no deaths related to this procedure.

1. American Gastroenterological Association.   “Radiofrequency Ablation Safely and Effectively Treats Barrett’s Esophagus, Study Suggests.”  ScienceDaily.  August 12, 2011.  Web 3 May 2013.
2. “Radiofrequency Ablation Zaps Barrett’s Esophagus, Reduces Cancer Risk.”  WebMD Health News.  WebMD.  May 27, 2009.  Web 3 May 2013.