Jefferson University Hospitals

Barrett's Esophagus

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Jefferson Health's Barrett's Esophagus Treatment Center is one of only a few dedicated Barrett's centers in the United States, and the first multidisciplinary center solely dedicated to treating Barrett's esophagus in Philadelphia.

The Barrett's Esophagus Treatment Center's multidisciplinary patient care team at Jefferson Health includes specialists in gastroenterology, pathology and surgery to treat basic and complicated, precancerous cases (dysplastic Barrett's esophagus). Jefferson Health physicians are supported by a registered dietitian who instructs patients on successfully maintaining a healthy diet that can mitigate the effects of reflux (heartburn) that causes their Barrett’s esophagus.

Jefferson Health's multidisciplinary staff also includes nurses specially trained and highly experienced in caring for patients with Barrett’s esophagus alone or in conjunction with various co-morbidities.

For cases of esophageal cancer, Jefferson Health is joined by oncologists and radiation therapists of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Jefferson Health.

What is Barrett's Esophagus?

Barrett's esophagus affects more than three million people in the United States, and that number is growing at an alarming rate. 

The esophagus is a muscular tube that connects the mouth and stomach in order to carry food. The condition Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the tissue is replaced by one that is similar to the intestinal lining. This is caused by stomach acid bathing the esophagus, which is called intestinal metaplasia.

In many cases, Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed in people who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn. However, only a small percentage of people with GERD will develop Barrett's esophagus.

Although Barrett’s esophagus is potentially pre-cancerous, only a small percentage will progress to pre-cancer or cancer. However, if you have been diagnosed, it’s important to have regular check-ups with your gastroenterologist.

Barrett’s Esophagus Symptoms

There are no symptoms specific to the development or presence of Barrett’s esophagus. However, if you have long-standing acid reflux, vomiting, esophageal dysphagia (food sticking while eating), or a family history of Barrett’s esophagus or esophagus cancer, you should be checked by your doctor.

Barrett’s Esophagus Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Barrett’s esophagus occurs when there is a change in the lining of the food tube. Because Barrett’s esophagus is often diagnosed with those who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating certain foods may help control acid reflux, as well as lower the risk of cancer.

If you have Barrett’s esophagus or GERD, there are a variety of foods that may trigger symptoms. These include fried foods (french fries, onion rings, etc.), spicy foods (curry, jalapenos), fatty foods (processed meats, butter) and beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol. Other notable foods to avoid are chocolate, tomato sauces, peppermint, and citrus juices.

Instead, you should be incorporating foods that are high in fiber and lower in fat. Foods that are good to have in your diet if you have Barrett’s esophagus include:

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, oats, beans, quinoa, brown rice, lentils, whole-grain bread, and whole-grain pasta.

You may also want to have multiple, small meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones, in order to make digestion easier and lower the risk of acid reflux. You should also avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime.

Barrett's Esophagus Risk Factors

  • Obesity
  • Tobacco smokers
  • Being age 50 or older
  • Family history of esophageal or gastric cancer

Radiofrequency Ablation RFA

Jefferson Health is a leader in advanced endoscopic and surgical therapies for Barrett's esophagus. Our physicians pioneered radiofrequency ablation as a treatment of Barrett's esophagus in 2006. This treatment can completely reverse the damage to the esophagus tissue in 80 to 90 percent of cases, returning it to normal. On average, radiofrequency ablation requires four 30-minute outpatient procedures at intervals of two to three months. Side effects are minimal and you can return to work within days of each procedure.

Jefferson Health's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is among the top five highest centers in volume nationally in radiofrequency ablation for Barrett's Esophagus, with more than 2,300 procedures performed by our physicians.

Advanced Testing & Monitoring

Jefferson Health offers esophageal manometry to evaluate noncardiac chest pain, esophageal spasm, achalasia and other motility disorders.

Esophageal 24-hour pH monitoring is the gold standard of gastroesophageal reflux assessment for both medical and surgical management. Jefferson Health uses advanced pH monitoring technology, which includes the acid-sensing disposable BRAVO™ capsule. The capsule is endoscopically placed in the esophagus and transmits data to a pager-sized computer worn on the patient's belt. It offers comfort, convenience and improved accuracy over the catheter-based pH monitor inserted through the nose.

Esophageal impedance, which measures nonacid reflux, is available for patients who have normal results from the 24-hour pH probe; it assesses whether gas or liquids reflux into the esophagus.