A new analysis of a U.S. national database suggests that surveillance endoscopies are being initiated unnecessarily in patients without a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus, and sooner than the recommended interval in patients with nondysplastic Barrett’s esophagus. The study, published in the, found some improvements, suggesting that 2016 recommendations from the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Board of Internal Medicine have had some impact in reducing unnecessary surveillance, but more work may need to be done. The guidelines recommend surveillance of nondysplastic Barrett’s esophagus every 3-5 years, and no biopsy for normal or irregular Z-line (<1 cm of variability).
“There was a notable change in practice after the 2016 ACG guidelines,” said Ziad Gellad, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University, Durham, N.C., in an interview. He noted that fewer providers were recommending 1-2-year surveillance intervals for nondysplastic Barrett’s esophagus and an increase in those who recommended a 3-year interval.
But the study also found frequent biopsies of irregular Z-line. Whether that’s a clear signal of overuse of biopsy is unclear, since the researchers couldn’t determine if other macroscopic or endoscopically visible abnormalities may have been present and driven a decision. “We can’t assume that there wasn’t any other abnormality in the esophagus that deserved to be biopsied,” said Dr. Gellad, who was not involved in the study.
The authors, led by Sachin Wani, MD, of the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, and Nicholas J. Shaheen, MD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed data from theon 135,704 endoscopies in 114,894 patients, performed between January 2013 and December 2019. Analyzed data included procedure indication, demographics, endoscopy and histology findings, and recommendations for further endoscopy.
Just over 61% of subjects were men, and 91.0% were White. The mean age at time of endoscopy was 61.7 years. 50.2% of procedures produced a pathology-confirmed diagnosis of intestinal metaplasia (IM). Of these, 5.9% were indefinite for dysplasia or low-grade dysplasia (LGD), and 1.5% were high-grade dysplasia (HGD).
In 81.4% of cases with IM and a normal Z-line, the endoscopist recommended surveillance endoscopy. In 44.2%, the repeat was recommended in 3 years. 26.1% were recommended for surveillance in 1-2 years. Surveillance was recommended in 80.7% of cases with IM and an irregular Z-line; 51.5% in 3 years and 19.5% in 1-2 years. Almost 20% of subjects with normal Z-line and no IM were recommended for surveillance endoscopy, most often in 3 years (8.6%). 24% of those with irregular Z-line and no IM were recommended for surveillance endoscopy (15.8% in 3 years). Overall, between 2016 and 2019, compared with 2013-2015, the researchers found an increase in the frequency of recommendation of 3-year intervals, and a decrease in recommendation of 1-2-year intervals.
Among patients with columnar-lined esophagus and confirmed Barrett’s esophagus, 53.4% of the 1- to 3-cm group and 41.8% of the >3-cm group were recommended surveillance endoscopy at 3 years. 21.9% of the 1- to 3-cm group and 30.3% of the >3-cm group were recommended for surveillance endoscopy sooner than 3 years.
“It confirms overuse of upper endoscopy in the management of Barrett’s. However, there is also a nagging question in my mind about what to do about an irregular Z-line,” said Dr. Gellad. He noted that 33.8% of individuals with irregular Z-line had IM, while 3.8% had LGD and 0.7% had HGD. Those patients would have been missed if biopsies had not been taken, which would have been consistent with the new guidelines. However, he noted that pathology findings were not reviewed by an expert pathologist. “Does this data suggest because you find HGD in irregular Z-line, should we now in fact biopsy irregular Z-line? That’s one of the interesting pieces of this,” said Dr. Gellad.
He also believes that there is much more to be learned about what drives the decisions and timing surrounding surveillance endoscopy. “I think that’s an area that’s ripe for research,” said Dr. Gellad.
The study was funded by the University of Colorado department of medicine. The article authors have consulted for various companies. Dr. Gellad has no relevant financial disclosures.
SOURCE: Wani S et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2020 Oct 11. .