To investigate whether Barrett's metaplasia may develop despite effective medical therapy.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease has a multifactorial etiology. Therefore, medical treatment may not prevent complications of reflux disease.
Eighty-three patients with reflux disease and mild esophagitis were prospectively studied for the development of Barrett's metaplasia while receiving long-term therapy with proton pump inhibitors and cisapride. Only patients who had effective control of reflux symptoms and esophagitis were included. The surveillance time was 2 years. The outcome of these 83 patients was compared with that of 42 patients in whom antireflux surgery was performed with a median follow-up of 3.5 years.
Twelve (14.5%) patients developed Barrett's while receiving medical therapy; this was not seen after surgery. Patients developing Barrett's had a weaker lower esophageal sphincter and peristalsis before treatment than patients with uncomplicated disease.
Antireflux surgery is superior to medical therapy in the prevention of Barrett's metaplasia. Therefore, patients with reflux disease who have a weak lower esophageal sphincter and poor esophageal peristalsis should undergo antireflux surgery, even if they have only mild esophagitis.