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Barrett’s Esophagus in New Jersey

The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve. Angela Merlo, MD is an experienced Gastroenterologist and expert in the diagnosis and treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus.

What is Barrett’s Esophagus?

The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach through which foods and drinks travel after swallowing. Barrett’s Esophagus is the condition when the normal lining of the esophagus is replaced by types of cells normally found lining the lower intestine or colon. Experts agree that Barrett’s Esophagus is caused by chronic acid reflux but not all people with acid reflux develop Barrett’s Esophagus. The intestinal cells in Barrett’s Esophagus have the potential for malignant transformation so people with Barrett’s Esophagus have an increased risk for developing cancer. The cancer that develops is the type usually found in the stomach and lower intestine and not the type of cancer that can otherwise develop in the esophagus.

What are Symptoms of Barrett’s Esophagus?

Barrett’s Esophagus causes no symptoms. Affected individuals may feel the symptoms of acid reflux such as heartburn, chest pain, indigestion, nausea or vomiting. But, many people with Barrett’s Esophagus feel no symptoms until a complication develops. Possible complications of Barrett’s are:

  • Anemia
  • Cancer
  • Strictures
  • Ulcers

Am I at Risk?

Your risk for developing Barrett’s Esophagus is much higher if you are:

  • Caucasian
  • Male gender
  • Obese
  • Smoke tobacco

How is Barrett’s Esophagus Diagnosed?

Barrett’s Esophagus is diagnosed on endoscopy. The changes to the lining of the esophagus are usually visualized and confirmed by microscopic analysis of biopsies obtained during endoscopy. Biopsies are crucial for diagnosing esophagitis as well as pre- cancerous changes or the presence of cancer. Dr. Merlo is highly skilled both in performed endoscopy as well as obtaining necessary biopsies and interpreting the results. Dr. Merlo gives her patients the advantage of a thorough endoscopic examination that is necessary to reach an accurate diagnosis so a proper treatment plan can be formulated.

How is Barrett’s Esophagus Treated?

The goal of therapy is to eliminate acid reflux. There are a number of medications available that suppress acid production. Ask Dr. Merlo which medication is right for you. Monitoring of patients with Barrett’s Esophagus is recommended with periodic endoscopy and biopsies to:

  • assure inflammation is controlled
  • detect pre-cancerous changes
  • detect early cancers

Pre-cancerous changes once detected can be resected during endoscopy often without the need for surgery. There is also a specialized procedure called radio frequency ablation that can be performed during endoscopy that uses radio frequency energy to destroy Barrett’s.

If you have symptoms of acid reflux, suspect Barrett’s Esophagus or have been diagnosed and are seeking therapy, contact the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center for an appointment with Dr. Merlo.