From the AGA Journals

AGA releases update for endoscopic treatment of Barrett’s esophagus



The American Gastroenterological Association recently released a clinical practice update for endoscopic treatment of Barrett’s esophagus with dysplasia and/or early esophageal adenocarcinoma.

The update offers best practice advice for a range of clinical scenarios based on published evidence, including guidelines and recent systematic reviews, reported lead author Prateek Sharma, MD, of the University of Kansas, Kansas City. Dr. Sharma was accompanied on the authoring review team by three other expert gastroenterologists from the United States and the Netherlands.

Beyond practice advice, the investigators highlighted a research focus for the future.

“Given the expense and time required for careful and continual surveillance after Barrett’s endoscopic therapy, the future must define improved means of risk-stratifying patients for therapy who are at highest risk for cancer development and for risk of recurrence after complete eradication of intestinal metaplasia,” they wrote in Gastroenterology. “Potentially, we may use a panel of patient characteristics (such as the [Progression in Barrett’s] score), preablation tissue characteristics (e.g., baseline grade of dysplasia) and the posttherapy molecular makeup of the epithelium to help risk stratify our patients.”

For now, many of the treatment principles in the update depend upon histologic features.

For instance, either endoscopic therapy or continued surveillance are reasonable options for patients with Barrett’s esophagus who have confirmed and persistent low-grade dysplasia. In contrast, the update recommends that all patients with high-grade dysplasia or esophageal adenocarcinoma (T1a) undergo endoscopic therapy, highlighting that this method is preferred over esophagectomy for patients with T1a cancer. Along the same lines, the investigators noted that endoscopic therapy is a “reasonable alternative” to esophagectomy in cases of T1b esophageal adenocarcinoma in the presence of minimal invasion and good to moderate differentiation, particularly in patients who are poor candidates for surgery.

During the decision-making process, patients with dysplasia should be advised that not undergoing endoscopic therapy may increase cancer risk, the investigators wrote, adding that patients should also be informed about endoscopic therapy–related risks of bleeding and perforation, which occur in less than 1% of patients, and the risk of postprocedural stricture formation, which occurs in approximately 6% of patients.

If endoscopic therapy is elected, the update suggests that the procedure be done by experts who perform at least 10 new cases per year.

Concerning specifics of therapy, the investigators advised that mucosal ablation be applied to all visible esophageal columnar mucosa, 5-10 mm proximal to the squamocolumnar junction, and 5-10 mm distal to the gastroesophageal junction. Ablation should only be performed in cases of flat Barrett’s esophagus in which no visible abnormalities or signs of inflammation are present, the review team wrote.

The investigators went on to lay out some “practical ground rules” for endoscopic therapy, including a potential pitfall.

“Ablation therapy may consist of multiple 2-3 monthly ablation sessions that may extend over a period of more than a year,” the investigators wrote. “The worst adverse outcome during the treatment period is failing to recognize and treat an invasive cancer while continuing the ablation sessions. This occurrence may place the patient outside of the window of opportunity for curative endoscopic treatment. Therefore, every ablation session starts with careful endoscopic inspection using [high-definition white-light endoscopy] and preferably optical chromoendoscopy to exclude the presence of visible abnormalities that require an endoscopic resection instead of the scheduled ablation. Routine biopsies of flat Barrett’s esophagus are not necessary or recommended prior to ablation at these sessions, as the blood may inhibit optimal energy transfer to the tissue.”

Following successfully achieved complete endoscopic and histologic eradication of intestinal metaplasia, the update calls for surveillance endoscopy with biopsies at intervals of 1 and 3 years for cases of low-grade dysplasia and at intervals of 3, 6, and 12 months for high-grade dysplasia or esophageal adenocarcinoma, followed by annual checks thereafter.

The investigators disclosed relationships with Olympus, Ironwood, Erbe, and others.

SOURCE: Sharma P et al. Gastroenterology. 2019 Nov 12. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.09.051.

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