Barrett's Esophagus

Complete care for this esophageal disorder.

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which repeated exposure to stomach acid damages the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). Barrett’s esophagus usually develops as a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD involves acid reflux (a backward flow of stomach acid from the stomach into the esophagus) because of a weakened muscle in the esophagus.

Without treatment, Barrett’s esophagus can develop into esophageal cancer. Fortunately, our team at Henry Ford Health System provides the most advanced treatment options available for Barrett’s esophagus and other esophageal disorders. We focus on relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

Barrett’s esophagus symptoms

Barrett’s esophagus usually doesn’t cause any symptoms of its own. However, because Barrett’s esophagus most often results from GERD, you may experience symptoms of that condition, including:

  • Frequent heartburn, which may cause sharp pain in the chest or abdomen (belly)
  • Taste or feeling of stomach acid or partially digested food in the back of your mouth (regurgitation, the backward flow of food or stomach acid)
  • Trouble swallowing

How we diagnose Barrett’s esophagus

If you have GERD, and treatment doesn’t improve your symptoms or they return after treatment, your doctor may suspect that you have Barrett’s esophagus. We use a variety of techniques to rule in or rule out a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus, including:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of your medical history, symptoms, family history of gastrointestinal disorders, etc.
  • Endoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure in which we use an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera) to inspect the lining of your esophagus for any issues

Our options for treating Barrett’s esophagus

If we confirm that you have Barrett’s esophagus, you and your doctor will create a treatment plan that focuses on your unique needs and concerns. The goal of your treatment plan is to relieve your symptoms and prevent the condition from developing into esophageal cancer.

Your treatment plan for Barrett’s esophagus may include:

Lifestyle changes for Barrett’s esophagus

In many cases, you can reduce the pain and other symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus by avoiding foods and other items that can cause acid reflux, such as:

  • Caffeinated, carbonated and alcoholic drinks
  • Tobacco
  • Fatty or fried food
  • Mints
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Tomatoes or tomato products
  • Spicy food

Medication therapy for Barrett’s esophagus

Our specialists may recommend one or more of the following medications to relieve your GERD symptoms:

  • Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Prevacid to prevent stomach acid production
  • H2-receptor inhibitors such as Pepcid and Zantac to reduce acid production
  • Antacids such as Rolaids and Mylanta to reduce acid in your stomach

Surgical treatment of Barrett’s esophagus

If you have GERD, your doctor will monitor you regularly with endoscopy to check the lining of your esophagus. Regular endoscopies will let your doctor check any abnormal cells that may be precancerous lesions. We may take a biopsy (tissue sample) of abnormal cells to determine whether they’re cancerous.

If a biopsy shows any cells that are precancerous, you may need surgery to remove those cells. We are one of the few teams in Michigan that offer an endoscopic surgical procedure called HALO 360.

During a HALO 360 procedure, we use radio waves to destroy abnormal cells in a process called radiofrequency ablation. Your doctor will:

  • Pinpoint the treatment area with an endoscope
  • Insert a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) with a tiny balloon into your esophagus
  • Measure the diameter of your esophagus with the catheter’s balloon
  • Use another catheter to deliver the radio waves and destroy the diseased tissue

You’ll be able to go home the same day as your HALO 360 procedure.

Additional questions about Barrett’s esophagus

It’s natural to have questions if you’ve been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus or if your doctor thinks you may be at risk for the disease. Get answers to common questions about Barrett’s esophagus.

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