Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic (long lasting) and usually severe gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), but occurs in only a small percentage of patients with GERD.
Criteria are needed for screening patients with GERD for Barrett's esophagus. Until validated criteria are available, it seems reasonable to do screening endoscopies in GERD patients who cannot be taken off acid suppression therapy after two to three years.
The diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus rests upon seeing (at endoscopy) a pink esophageal lining that extends a short distance (usually less than 2.5 inches) up the esophagus from the gastroesophageal junction and finding intestinal type cells (goblet cells) on biopsy of the lining.
There is a small but definite increased risk of cancer of the esophagus (adenocarcinoma) in patients with Barrett's esophagus.