Diagnosing Barrett's Oesophagus

If you have any problems affecting your digestion, like persistent heartburn, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist for investigation. (Particularly if you meet the 'most at risk' criteria of being a white male over 55.)

They may wish to look at your oesophagus to see what's going on. This is done using a small camera on a long thin tube called an endoscope. You will offered sedation which will mean needing someone with you and not being able to drive or operate machinery for 24 hours, or you may opt to have just throat spray whereby you remain conscious all the time. It is uncomfortable but only lasts less than 10 minutes.

Barrett's oesophagus shows as a salmon coloured area.

To confirm a Barrett's diagnosis, biopsies need to be taken (painlessly via a small wire snare through the endoscope) which are then sent to a pthology lab where a histopathologist will examine the cells.

(Image courtesy of Medtronc)

Alternative methods of collecting and analysing cells for Barrett's are being developed. The most promising being Cytosponge. A subpage on Cytosponge is now available.

The JOURNEY tab has a page on diagnosis here or check out the Down With Acid encyclopaedia.