Ablation is the process of heating cells or tissue until it is no longer alive and can be used in various parts of the body. Radiofrequency ablation heats the tissue with a controlled burst of energy which typically removes tissue to a depth of one millimeter with one second of treatment. Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat cancerous and precancerous conditions including Barrett’s Esophagus.
Barrett’s Esophagus is a precancerous condition of the esophagus which affects an estimated three million adults in the United States. The condition is caused by the backup of stomach acid into the esophagus common to those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The acid and enzymes that leak into the esophagus injure the lining, resulting in symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. Over time, the cells genetically mutate and change into intestinal tissue. This change is called Barrett’s esophagus or intestinal metaplasia. Patients who suffer from GERD symptoms more than three days a week should see a physician to be screened for this condition.
The treatment is usually carried out on a sedated patient in conjunction with an upper endoscopy to allow the physician to see the treated areas. The treatment is usually quick, lasting less than a half hour and is an outpatient procedure with no need for incisions. Once the patient is ready, the doctor will insert an endoscope and a catheter into the patient’s esophagus. The tip of the catheter has a balloon covered by radiofrequency electrodes. The doctor uses the endoscope to correctly place the electrodes, then will release a short burst of energy to target and remove the abnormal cells. Ablation technology only targets the top most layer of cells and is proven to remove abnormalities with minimal damage to healthy cells. Clinical trials showed that patients were free from Barrett’s at follow-up exams more than 30 months following the treatment.
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