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All Posts in Category: Upper GI Endoscopy

Computer tablet with the words "Acid Reflux" appearing on screen

Barrett’s Esophagitis: A Condition Caused by GERD

GERD and its Impact on the Esophagus

As we shared in other posts, GERD (short for “gastroesophageal reflux disease”) is the culprit in creating heartburn, the painful burning sensation felt in the throat and chest after eating certain foods.  It is estimated that approximately seven million people in the United States, from adults to infants, suffer from the symptoms of GERD at some point in their lives. For many people, the affects of GERD are felt only occasionally such as after a very large meal (think Thanksgiving). But for some who suffer from heartburn on a regular basis, GERD can cause other conditions if left untreated. One such condition this post will discuss is Barrett’s Esophagitis.

When GERD occurs, acidic fluids from the stomach flow backwards, or reflux, up into the esophagus. These caustic fluids irritate the lining of the esophagus, creating the burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Repeated bouts of GERD over an extended period of time can damage the lining of the esophagus, creating a condition called Barrett’s Esophagitis. Although not cancerous itself, the presence of Barrett’s Esophagitis indicates the lining of the esophagus has been changed enough that cancerous cells could develop.

How Barrett’s Esophagitis is Detected

In many cases, Barrett’s Esophagitis is detected during routine diagnostic evaluation for GERD via an upper endoscopy. During this minimally invasive procedure, a small flexible tube with a video camera is used so the surgeon can perform a visual analysis of the affected area.   In a healthy esophagus, the lining is pink and uniform in color. With an esophagus affected by Barrett’s Esophagitis, the lining appears uneven in color and pattern, as seen in this side by side comparison:

Barretts comparison

If Barrett’s Esophagitis is present, your surgeon may need to perform additional testing such as biopsies to detect the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells within the esophagus.

Preventing Further Damage from Barrett’s Esophagitis

Your surgeon will keep track of any changes in your esophagus through regular testing. The good news is that controlling the symptoms and potential esophageal damage from GERD is often achievable with lifestyle changes your surgeon can suggest specifically for your condition. These can include losing weight, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and eliminating greasy and high-fat foods that create reflux.

Dr. Thomas Beetel, Dr. Robert Howard, and Dr. Joseph Levan of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists each provide evaluation of GERD and Barrett’s Esophagitis. With offices located at 2758 Century Boulevard, Suite 1, Wyomissing, PA., many procedures are performed at the adjacent Surgical Institute of Reading. To make an appointment to see Dr. Beetel, Dr. Howard, or Dr. Levan, please call 610.375.0500.

– Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

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Reflux as shown in healthy stomach, and stomach affected by GERD

Evaluation of Reflux: Providing Best Treatment by Targeting the Cause

Reflux, also referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), affects millions of people in the United States today. Its most widely known symptom is heartburn, a burning sensation in the throat or chest. But to clarify, “heartburn” has nothing to do with the heart. The problem, in fact, lies in the digestive tract.

Clearing Up the Confusion about Reflux 

As we’ve shared in a previous post Reflux Disease: Helpful Measures for a Common Condition, reflux indicates digestive acid has been allowed to escape through a weakened one-way valve at the top of the stomach and travel upwards through the esophagus and into the throat. Most people suffer from an occasional bout of reflux, particularly after a large meal or lying down right after eating. But when an occasional bout turns into a regular occurrence, it may indicate a larger – yet very common – condition requiring diagnosis.

Evaluation Key to Diagnosis 

A thorough discussion about your symptoms with your physician will aid in the best diagnosis and treatment. For the occasional “heartburn” sufferer, over-the-counter medications or lifestyle changes may be all that is needed. If suffering from regular, ongoing occurrences, however, your physician may suggest a physical exam and diagnostic testing to pinpoint the cause and provide diagnosis of reflux. Your physician will order testing most appropriate for your symptoms, but they can include any of the following:

  • An upper gastrointestinal (GI), which produces x-rays of the digestive tract. After swallowing a barium shake, the x-ray monitors the barium dye as it moves along the tract to the stomach, capturing images of any reflux as it occurs.
  • An esophageal endoscopy, which sends images of the esophagus and stomach to a video monitor enabling the surgeon to evaluate the esophagus for signs or acute or chronic damage caused by stomach acid.
  • An esophageal manometry, measuring the muscle tone of the one-way valve at the top of the stomach. This is performed if your physician believes you are a candidate for surgical correction of reflux.

Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Joseph Levan of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists each provide thorough evaluation and surgical treatment of reflux disease. Surgical treatment is performed at Surgical Institute of Reading, conveniently located in the same complex as the Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists practice offices. To make an appointment to see Dr. Howard, Dr. Beetel or Dr. Levan at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, please call 610.375.0500.

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Have questions about endoscopy?

To help patients better understand endoscopy, Dr. Howard, Dr. Levan and Dr. Beetel (left to right) present the following information.

What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy is an umbrella term referring to the process of diagnosing gastrointestinal tract issues. Surgeons utilize an endoscope, which is a long, narrow, flexible operative instrument containing a very small video camera outfitted with a high-powered light to help detect abnormalities.

For gastrointestinal problems of the esophagus, stomach and the duodenum (first part of the small intestine), an upper GI endoscopy is performed to detect and diagnose ulcers, gastritis, polyps, causes of bleeding or pain, and cancer.

For problems related to the colon, such as inflammation, bleeding or pain, and for colon cancer screening, a lower GI endoscopy is performed. When the entire colon requires examination, the procedure is referred to as a colonoscopy. When a partial examination occurs, such as the rectum and the sigmoid colon (first part of the colon) only, the procedure is called a sigmoidoscopy.

What to expect

Endoscopic procedures require patients to follow pre-operative preparation instructions provided by their surgeon prior to surgery such as limiting food and drink intake a day or two before surgery as well as use of colon cleansing kits.  In most procedures, sedating medication is used to maximize patient comfort. A minimally invasive surgery, endoscopic procedures typically allow patients to be discharged less than an hour after the endoscopy is performed.

If a biopsy is performed during endoscopy, patients of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists can expect to receive test results within just a few days of the procedure, if not sooner, as well as a thorough follow up discussion with their surgeon.

Where will my procedure occur?

Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel and Dr. Howard perform endoscopic procedures at Surgical Institute of Reading, Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, depending on patient preference, scheduling availability and insurance requirements.

If it has been recommended to you either by your primary care physician or other care provider that an endoscopy is warranted, rest assured Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists provides the expertise needed for a positive experience before, during and after surgery.  To make an appointment to see Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel or Dr. Robert Howard, you can request an appointment online by CLICKING HERE.


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