Cleaning Out Barrett's Esophagus

Multipolar electrocoagulation ablation is safe and effective for treating heartburn

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Heartburn can badly damage the lining of your esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach). This damage can raise your risk for cancer. Now, researchers say there is a safe way to fix this damage.

Researchers reported that they can safely treat Barrett's esophagus - the damage caused by heartburn - with a tool that burns away cancer-causing cells using radio waves.

This tool, when combined with stomach acids, is a safe and effective way to control Barrett's esophagus and to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.

"Ask your doctor about new heartburn treatments."

Neil Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Kansas Medical Center, and colleagues wanted to find out if multipolar electrocoagulation ablation - a technique that uses radio waves to burn away cells damaged by heartburn, or acid reflux - is a safe and effective treatment over the long-term.

There are many ways to treat Barrett's esophagus. According to the study's authors, doctors can remove pre-cancerous and damaged cells or burn them. They can freeze them, or do some sort of combination of all three.

In an editorial that came alongside the research article, the authors conclude that randomized and controlled trials will need to be done as new ways to deal with damaged cells become available.

In-depth research will help doctors decide which treatments are safest and most effective.

In Depth

The researchers found:

  • Their study involved 139 patients with Barrett's esophagus
  • In addition to undergoing multipolar electrocoagulation ablation therapy, the study participants took stomach acid suppressors - called proton pump inhibitors - twice a day, beginning a week or two before ablation, then continuing through ablation treatment and for a year after
  • In order to get completely rid of Barrett's esophagus, patients had to go through one to five sessions of ablation
  • 95 percent of the patients did not experience a return of Barrett's esophagus after treatment
  • Only five percent of patients had complications, and those complications were not serious
  • None of the patients developed cancer 
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 25, 2011
Last Updated:
April 27, 2011