Medical Definition of Barrett's esophagus

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Barrett's esophagus: A complication of severe chronic GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease) involving changes in the cells of the tissue that line the bottom of the esophagus. These esophageal cells become irritated when the contents of the stomach back up (refluxes) and there is a small but definite increased risk of adenocarcinoma (cancer) of the esophagus. The diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus rests upon seeing (through endoscopy) a pink esophageal lining (mucosa) that extends a short distance (usually less than 2.5 inches) up the esophagus from the gastroesophageal junction and finding intestinal type cells (goblet cells) on biopsy of the lining. Treatment is, in general, essentially the same as for GERD both medically (with acid-suppression drugs) and surgically (with fundoplication).

Named after Norman Rupert Barrett (1903-1979), an eminent thoracic surgeon born in Australia who studied medicine and practiced in Britain.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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