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Endoscopic treatments for Barrett's esophagus: a systematic review of safety and effectiveness compared to esophagectomy

Devidas Menon1*, Tania Stafinski1, Heng Wu1, Darren Lau2 and Clarence Wong3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Room 3021, Research Transition Facility, 8308 114 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2V2, Canada

2 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, 2-040 Health Research Innovation Facility East, 8602 112 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E1, Canada

3 Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, 331 Community Services Centre, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, T5H 3V9, Canada

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BMC Gastroenterology 2010, 10:111  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-10-111

Published: 27 September 2010



Recently, several new endoscopic treatments have been used to treat patients with Barrett's esophagus with high grade dysplasia. This systematic review aimed to determine the safety and effectiveness of these treatments compared with esophagectomy.


A comprehensive literature search was undertaken to identify studies of endoscopic treatments for Barrett's esophagus or early stage esophageal cancer. Information from the selected studies was extracted by two independent reviewers. Study quality was assessed and information was tabulated to identify trends or patterns. Results were pooled across studies for each outcome. Safety (occurrence of adverse events) and effectiveness (complete eradication of dysplasia) were compared across different treatments.


The 101 studies that met the selection criteria included 8 endoscopic techniques and esophagectomy; only 12 were comparative studies. The quality of evidence was generally low. Methods and outcomes were inconsistently reported. Protocols, outcomes measured, follow-up times and numbers of treatment sessions varied, making it difficult to calculate pooled estimates.

The surgical mortality rate was 1.2%, compared to 0.04% in 2831 patients treated endoscopically (1 death). Adverse events were more severe and frequent with esophagectomy, and included anastomotic leaks (9.4%), wound infections (4.1%) and pulmonary complications (4.1%). Four patients (0.1%) treated endoscopically experienced bleeding requiring transfusions. The stricture rate with esophagectomy (5.3%) was lower than with porfimer sodium photodynamic therapy (18.5%), but higher than aminolevulinic acid (ALA) 60 mg/kg PDT (1.4%). Dysphagia and odynophagia varied in frequency across modalities, with the highest rates reported for multipolar electrocoagulation (MPEC). Photosensitivity, an adverse event that occurs only with photodynamic therapy, was experienced by 26.4% of patients who received porfimer sodium.

Some radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or argon plasma coagulation (APC) studies (used in multiple sessions) reported rates of almost 100% for complete eradication of dysplasia. But the study methods and findings were not adequately described. The other studies of endoscopic treatments reported similarly high rates of complete eradication.


Endoscopic treatments offer safe and effective alternatives to esophagectomy for patients with Barrett's esophagus and high grade dysplasia. Unfortunately, shortcomings in the published studies make it impossible to determine the comparative effectiveness of each of the endoscopic treatments.