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How is biopsy of the esophagus done?

It is fairly common to do biopsies during an endoscopy. A small biopsy forceps is passed down the endoscope and a tiny pinch of tissue is removed. This is sent to a pathologist, who examines the tissue under a microscope. This can be extremely helpful for the evaluation of patients with GERD. A normal-appearing esophagus on endoscopy can have microscopic clues to the presence of reflux disease. Abnormal areas can be biopsied to check for cancer.

Chronic reflux can put you at risk for a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This is an irreversible change in the lining of the esophagus resulting from chronic acid damage. Barrett’s esophagus cannot be diagnosed with a barium or upper GI study. An endoscopy can only suggest whether Barrett’s esophagus may or may not be present. In fact, the only way to make the definitive diagnosis is by taking a biopsy and looking for certain changes under the microscope. So, for the diagnosis of Barrett’s a biopsy is mandatory.

Biopsies of the esophagus (or for that matter anywhere in the gut) do not hurt. The nerves of the gut do not feel cutting or burning. But they do feel stretching, pulling, and distention from the scope or air that is used during the procedure.

By Mortin - Copyright 2010
Last modification 24/04/2010

How is biopsy of the esophagus done?- References