Advanced Treatment for Barrett’s Esophagus at New York Methodist Hospital

Jun 6, 2012

Brooklyn, NY

Photo of esophagus treatment

Mukul Arya, MD, director of advanced endoscopy at New York Methodist Hospital, performs an endoscopy on a patient to test for Barrett's esophagus.

New York Methodist Hospital (NYM) now offers advanced treatment for Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition commonly associated with acid reflux. The new treatment greatly reduces the chances that a patient with Barrett's esophagus will ultimately develop cancer.

Barrett's originates in the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The disease affects the lining of the cells in the stomach through a process known as metaplasia, during which the composition of esophageal cells changes to resemble the cells of the stomach or the small intestine. Over time, these cells can become malignant. Barrett's primarily affects Caucasian males over age 50, people who are significantly overweight, and those who smoke.

"With nearly one-third of Americans experiencing acid reflux symptoms at some point in their lives, the number of cases of esophageal cancer is likely to increase in the years ahead," said Mukul Arya, M.D., director of advanced endoscopy at NYM. "Patients diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus are 30 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than those without the condition, so it is important to diagnose and treat Barrett's immediately, before it has a chance to develop into cancer."

Dr. Arya performs one of the latest treatments for Barrett's esophagus, a minimally invasive procedure called radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA uses radio waves to kill the metaplastic cells caused by Barrett's, considerably reducing the odds that a patient will develop esophageal cancer. RFA can also eliminate low-grade cancer cells, even if a patient already has an early stage cancerous tumor. RFA is successful in eliminating Barrett's esophagus and cancerous cells during the first treatment 90 percent of the time. Patients receiving RFA are often able to remain awake during the procedure, and an overnight hospital stay is not required.

The best way to reduce the risks posed by Barrett's esophagus is to prevent the condition before it emerges. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic acid reflux condition that can alter and damage the lining of the stomach, is a common precursor to Barrett's esophagus. Symptoms of GERD may include heartburn, difficulty swallowing food, or upper abdominal/chest pain. Through nutritional awareness, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol intake, symptoms of GERD and acid reflux can be minimized, and the lining of the esophagus will experience less damage over time.

Prescription drugs are also available to help make patients with GERD more comfortable in their daily lives. However, there are severe cases, when GERD cannot be treated with medications or when the only alternative is continuous drug therapy, in which a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure can strengthen esophageal muscles and prevent future acid reflux. NYM's procedures provide new hope for those who have developed Barrett's esophagus. "We strive to offer the highest quality treatment options for our patients," said Dr. Arya. "When we see patients with Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer return to their daily lives without missing a beat after receiving treatment at NYM, we consider our job well done."

For more information about treatment for Barrett's esophagus, please contact NYM's Institute for Digestive and Liver Disorders, toll free, at 866-DIGEST-1.

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