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Radiofrequency ablation for Barrett's oesophagus

Radiofrequency ablation can help stop Barrett's oesophagus progressing to oesophageal cancer

Woman in discomfort awaiting radiofrequency ablation for Barrett's oesophagus treatment
Barrett's oesophagus is a common condition that is thought to be caused by chronic acid reflux (also known as heartburn). It causes the normal cells that line the oesophagus (also known as your gullet) to become abnormal, and sometimes to resemble those in your stomach.

Although the condition itself is not cancerous, it is what's known as a pre-cancerous precursor to the development of oesophageal cancer. What this means is that your risk of oesophageal cancer is slightly higher if you have Barrett's oesophagus, with the risk increasing in line with the extent of the cell abnormalities.

If you are suffering with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and want to know more, or have been diagnosed with Barrett's oesophagus and would like to know about treatment options, our experienced consultants are here to help. Call or book online today and you could be speaking with a specialist in as little as 48 hours.

Barrett’s oesophagus is typically thought to happen as a result of chronic GORD, which is long-standing acid reflux. The symptoms of this are:

  • Chronic heartburn
  • Regurgitation (where acid or food comes back up into your mouth)
  • A sour taste in the mouth (also part of regurgitation)
  • Difficulty swallowing

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an established treatment in which the affected areas of your oesophagus are exposed to a defined heat energy to destroy the abnormal tissue. This is done via endoscopy, which is a type of procedure where a long, thin tube with a small camera inside (endoscope) is passed into your body, in this instance through your mouth.

RFA was first used to treat Barrett's oesophagus in 2005 and can be used to treat people with both early stage and advanced symptoms of the disease.

More than 50 worldwide clinical studies, including several from the national UK RFA database, have demonstrated the safety and long term effectiveness of RFA for complete removal of Barrett's as well as reducing progression to oesophageal cancer.

There are a few things you'll need to do before you have the procedure, but your consultant will let you know exactly what to do.

You will need to fast for 6 hours before the procedure, although some medications can be taken with sips of water no later than 7am on the morning. Certain medications will need to be stopped for a while, including blood thinners. Every patient gets an individual assessment so you can rest assured that your care team will tell you everything you need to know.

Radiofrequency ablation for Barrett's oesophagus is done as a day case procedure, which means you won't stay in hospital overnight.

You will come to the endoscopy unit, and we will start by giving you sedation to keep you relaxed during the procedure. The endoscopy will then be performed by one of our experienced gastroenterologists.

An electrode mounted on a balloon catheter (HALO 360) or an electrode placed directly onto the endoscope is placed into the oesophagus and used to deliver heat energy directly to the Barrett's lining of the oesophagus. The procedure typically takes 30 to 45 minutes.

When your surgeon has finished, you'll be taken to a recovery area where we'll monitor you to make sure you're OK.

This is a day case procedure, so you will be able to go home the same day, usually after you've had something to eat and drink. Most people can return to work 48 hours after the endoscopy.

We'll give you some painkillers to take home with you, though not everyone finds they need them. You will probably need medicine for acid reflux, though, and we'll provide this too.

A modified soft diet is recommended for the first three days after the procedure to allow time for healing of the treated area.

After the procedure, the tissue that has been ablated will gradually be shed and replaced by healthy lining of the oesophagus. This can take up to 10 weeks.

Following RFA treatment a repeat visit occurs at three monthly intervals until all the Barrett's has been eradicated. A follow up six months following completion of successful RFA would then be arranged with increasing intervals with each normal follow up examination. Most people will need to come back for at least two more sessions of RFA to remove all the Barrett's lining, but this will depend on how extensive your abnormalities were.

Long term continuation of antacid therapy is recommended following successful RFA Barrett's eradication to prevent future new Barrett's development.

Radiofrequency ablation is a very safe and well tolerated procedure. Still, there are risks to any procedure, so you should always be aware. Your consultant will make sure you have all the facts before you agree to any particular treatment.

About 20% of patients will experience some chest pain following the procedure, however this resolves within a few days in the majority of cases.

About 3% of patients may develop a narrowing of the oesophagus (called a stricture) as a result of the healing process following RFA. This may occasionally require an endoscopy and a stretching of the oesophagus using a procedure called a dilatation.

Major complications are very uncommon (less than 0.1% of patents) but could include bleeding or perforation of the oesophagus.

When you choose to go private with Circle, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to suit your schedule
  • The choice of which consultant and hospital are best for you
  • Bespoke treatment plans, built around you
  • Consultant-led treatment from start to finish
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard with delicious, healthy meals to suit all dietary needs
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options so you can spread the cost of your care

If you want to learn more about treatment for GORD or Barrett’s oesophagus, book an appointment online or give us a call directly to speak to one of our advisors.

Specialists offering Radiofrequency ablation for Barrett's oesophagus

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