McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Blair Jobe, MD (pictured), associate professor of surgery, Director of Esophageal Research, and Director of Esophageal Diagnostics and Therapeutic Endoscopy, in the Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery Institute at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, specializes in the treatment of esophageal cancer, esophageal motility disorders, and complicated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A possible result of long-term GERD is a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is when the tissue lining the esophagus—the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach—is replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestine. This process is called intestinal metaplasia.
Now there is an easier way to find out if you have Barrett's. It is the transnasal unsedated endoscopy, and it's done in an office. The technique is used to evaluate complications of GERD involving the pharynx, larynx, and esophagus as well as other suspected pathologies of the esophagus and stomach. The scope goes through the nose, down the throat, and into the esophagus.
Dr. Jobe believes that the procedure will help doctors understand why certain people with reflux develop Barrett's, but he said most people with this precancerous condition do not get cancer.
No signs or symptoms are associated with Barrett’s esophagus. The exact causes of Barrett’s Esophagus are not known. Although people who do not have GERD can have Barrett’s Esophagus, the condition is found about three to five times more often in people who also have GERD.
Since Barrett’s Esophagus is more commonly seen in people with GERD, most physicians recommend treating GERD symptoms with acid-reducing drugs. Improvement in GERD symptoms may lower the risk of developing Barrett’s Esophagus. A surgical procedure may be recommended if medications are not effective in treating GERD.
Barrett’s esophagus affects about 1 percent of adults in the United States. The average age at diagnosis is 50, but determining when the problem started is usually difficult. Men develop Barrett’s esophagus twice as often as women, and Caucasian men are affected more frequently than men of other races. Barrett’s esophagus is uncommon in children.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The Pittsburgh Channel (06/26/09)
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health
Division of Thoracic and Foregut Surgery of the Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Bio: Dr. Blair Jobe