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Br J Surg. 1999 Feb;86(2):276-80.

Surveillance for Barrett's oesophagus in the UK.

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Department of Surgery, University Hospital, Nottingham, UK.



Endoscopic screening for Barrett's oesophagus is being offered without evidence of efficacy Barrett's oesophagus is not an ideal candidate for a screening programme, as the natural history is unclear, uncertainties surround the indication for intervention and the treatment is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates.


To determine the practices that clinicians employ in the management of Barrett's oesophagus in the UK, postal questionnaires were sent in May 1997 to 297 randomly selected members of the British Society of Gastroenterology asking for details of their current practice.


Of 152 respondents, 106 (70 per cent) performed surveillance for Barrett's oesophagus; 46 (30 per cent) did not carry out screening. There was no difference in the practices carried out by physicians or surgeons, teaching or acute general hospital clinicians, or those with an upper gastrointestinal interest. There was a wide disparity in screening interval: just over half (52 per cent) screen at yearly intervals. Only nine (8 per cent) took four quadrant biopsies per 2 cm of Barrett's oesophagus. Nearly half (49 per cent) manage mild dysplasia by increasing the frequency of endoscopy; only seven (7 per cent) prescribed patients a proton pump inhibiting agent. Faced with severe dysplasia, 33 (31 per cent) offered surgery immediately; 22 (21 per cent) simply followed the patient by endoscopy. Those not choosing to perform screening most frequently cited lack of evidence of efficacy as the reason behind their decision.


There is wide variation in surveillance practices for Barrett's oesophagus. Some methods are ineffectual. The recommendations made by the Barrett's Oesophagus Working Party in 1991 are not followed, possibly because they are not practical. New workable guidelines based on available evidence and a consensus of expert opinion should be established; this was suggested by 38 per cent of respondents who performed screening.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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