CINCINNATI—A new procedure at University Hospital could help eliminate the risk of cancer for area patients who suffer from Barrett’s esophagus.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which 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. Barrett’s is commonly found in people with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease, often called GERD or acid reflux, and can lead to a deadly type of esophageal cancer.
Nathan Schmulewitz, MD, assistant professor of digestive diseases at the University of Cincinnati (UC), is using a new technology—called HALO—which uses radiofrequency ablation to burn away this lining.
He says University Hospital is currently the only facility offering the procedure in the Cincinnati area.
“Previously, the only way to ‘cure’ Barrett’s was through surgery—taking out the portion of the esophagus that was affected and pulling the stomach into the chest—or Photodynamic therapy, PDT, which also involves burning the esophageal lining,” he says, noting that PDT causes a deeper burn, predisposing the patient to higher complication rates and possibly leading to severe skin burns. “This new technology is a big deal. It is essentially curing the disease with a minimally-invasive procedure.”
Radiofrequency ablation—which has been used to destroy tumors in other organs—uses an electrode to burn the circumferential lining of the esophagus away.
“It is very safe and is done as an outpatient endoscopy procedure,” Schmulewitz says. “Our goal is to eradicate a known, precancerous condition.”
Patients with Barrett’s esophagus who have shown precancerous changes on biopsy samples as well as those who have not yet demonstrated precancerous changes are candidates for the procedure.
Schmulewitz has no financial interests in Barrx, the company that manufactures the HALO ablation technology.