ST. LOUIS – Physicians at Saint Louis University Hospital are offering a minimally-invasive approach to treat Barrett’s esophagus by using radiofrequency ablation to remove the diseased tissue without damaging the normal underlying structures of the throat.
The procedure, HALO ablation therapy, is performed by gastroenterologists in conjunction with an upper endoscopy in an outpatient setting without incisions.
“This allows us an alternative to surgery for some Barrett’s patients and requires essentially no recovery period,” says Christine Hachem, MD, gastroenterologist at Saint Louis University Hospital and a SLUCare physician.
Barrett's esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. While the overall risk is small, Barrett’s does increase risk of esophageal cancer over 30 fold. Frequently physicians will screen patients with chronic acid reflux symptoms for Barrett’s esophagus and if present, regular endoscopies are performed to monitor for cancer changes.
According to Dr. Hachem, gastroenterologists insert an endoscope into the patient’s mouth with an ablation catheter attached at the tip. It’s covered by a band of radiofrequency electrodes to treat areas of Barrett’s tissue. The gastroenterologist then guides the endoscope so the electrode-covered balloon applied targeted therapy to the precancerous tissue.
“The procedure is considered very safe and patients may experience transient post procedure issues , but there are medications to manage those symptoms,” says Dr. Hachem. “Overall, it’s a great alternative to an open surgery.”
For John Binsbacher of St. Charles, MO, that began in 1997. After being diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, he was treated with medications and screened with endoscopy every three years. “It wasn’t considered serious at that point,” he says.
However in 2010, the endoscopy found a polyp and abnormalities. Surgeons considered an open surgery to remove the esophagus, but Binsbacher’s family found information online about HALO ablation and were then guided to Dr. Hachem.
“Over a period of a couple of years I had several endoscopic procedures,” says Binsbacher. “The last seven of these were performed by Dr. Hachem using HALO ablation and she removed all precancerous tissue and I have a healthy esophagus again.”
After close to a year, a follow-up endoscopy will be performed with Binsbacher to determine if there is any recurrence.
For more information about HALO or Barrett’s esophagus, call Saint Louis University Hospital at 314-577-8000.
About Saint Louis University Hospital
Saint Louis University Hospital is a 356-licensed bed quaternary/tertiary referral center located in the heart of the city of St. Louis. Approximately 75 percent of patients are drawn from a 150-mile radius. Through affiliation as the teaching hospital for Saint Louis University, the hospital provides patients and their families with an environment of medical innovation. Working in this endeavor are the hospital’s medical staff partners, SLUCare, the physicians of Saint Louis University. The hospital admits more than 17,000 patients annually, performs more than 200 organ transplants a year and is a Level I Trauma Center that treats more than 2,000 major trauma cases a year. For more information, please visit www.sluhospital.com.
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