Short segment Barrett's esophagus: relationship of age with extent of intestinal metaplasia

P Benipal, H S Garewal, R E Sampliner, P Martinez, C W Hayden, R Fass
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2001, 96 (11): 3084-8

OBJECTIVE: Short segment Barrett's esophagus (SSBE) is defined by the presence of intestinal metaplasia in biopsies obtained from mucosa with an appearance suggestive of Barrett's that extends <3 cm into the esophagus. It has been suggested that this lesion may represent a stage in an ongoing process of Barrett's esophagus progression. If so, then the prevalence of SSBE would be expected to decrease with advancing age, and patients followed over time should exhibit an increase in the extent of columnar-lined esophagus. The aim of this study was to determine whether SSBE length progresses or regresses over time by following a prospective cohort and by assessing the relationship between age and the length, as well as prevalence of SSBE.

METHODS: The study included consecutive patients who were evaluated prospectively by an upper endoscopy and were found to have SSBE between October, 1983, and December, 1999, at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. All patients underwent a systematic biopsy protocol, and a designated pathologist who reviewed all specimens confirmed the diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus. Patients were subsequently interviewed for demographic information. In those patients who were enrolled into our surveillance program, SSBE length was remeasured and intestinal metaplasia reconfirmed on follow-up endoscopies.

RESULTS: Of 343 patients with endoscopically proven Barrett's esophagus, 116 (33.8%) were found to have SSBE. Almost all were male (97.4%) and white (85.3%), with a mean age of 60.1+/-1.0 yr. The prevalence of SSBE increased with age and reached a plateau during the seventh decade of life. One-way analysis of variance showed that there was no significant difference in the mean length of SSBE among the various age groups (p = 0.84). This trend was maintained when only the white group was assessed. Follow-up endoscopies were performed in 57 patients, revealing a mean interval of 64 months to the latest endoscopy, with no significant difference in SSBE length between the first and last endoscopy (p = 0.16).

CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of SSBE increases with age until the seventh decade of life. Finding that SSBE length does not change across the various age groups and during a 64-month mean follow-up, suggests that SSBE does not progress over time.

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