Barrett’s Radiofrequency Ablation is used for patients with Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition where the lining of the esophagus is damaged at the entrance of the stomach. In many cases, this injury is caused by a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

In some patients, Barrett’s esophagus can lead to a precancerous condition called dysplasia, and to esophageal cancer. Radiofrequency ablation is recommended for patients with precancerous cells or who have a family history of esophageal cancer from Barrett’s esophagus to prevent abnormal, damaged cells from developing into cancer and allow healthy cells to replace them.

During the procedure, your physician will perform an upper endoscopy by inserting a narrow, flexible tube called an endoscope, which includes a miniaturized electrode, through your mouth and into your esophagus. The electrode delivers short bursts of high-intensity heat energy to destroy precancerous tissue on the lining of the esophagus, and minimizes injury to surrounding healthy tissue.

Radiofrequency ablation is a safe and highly effective treatment option for many patients. However, it is not appropriate for patients who are pregnant or who have had radiation therapy to their esophagus.

How to prepare for the procedure

  • You may have diet and/or medication restrictions (especially aspirin and other anti-inflammatory products) several days before the exam. For instance, you may not be allowed to take certain over-the-counter painkillers.
  • If you are on Coumadin or other blood thinning medication, please contact your primary care physician. Notify your gastroenterologist if your physician feels you need to continue on your medication.
  • You will not be allowed any food or liquids (including water) for at least six hours before the procedure.
  • Plan to take the day off from work.
  • Plan to have someone you know drive you home. Because the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation or monitored anesthesia (MAC), you will not be allowed to drive for 24 hours after the procedure or return to work until the next day.
  • Let your physician know about any special needs, medical conditions, allergies (such as latex), and all current medications you are taking.
  • The NorthShore GI Lab staff will try to contact you the evening before your procedure to answer any questions you may have.

What to expect once you arrive for the procedure

  • Plan to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled procedure time.
  • You may have an intravenous line placed because the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation or monitored anesthesia.
  • You will be asked if there is someone available to drive you home after the procedure.
  • You will be positioned on your left side.
  • In most cases, the procedure usually takes between 60-90 minutes.
  • During the procedure, you may feel pressure in the abdominal area.
  • If needed, your physician may give you medication to help you relax during the exam.

What to expect after the procedure

  • After the procedure is completed, you will recover for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Once you have met the discharge criteria, your physician will let you know if you have to undergo additional testing. You also will find out when you can resume taking your usual medications. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics after the procedure.
  • You will receive discharge instructions to take home.
  • Diet and/or medication restrictions may be given to certain patients depending on the findings of the exam.
  • You may experience a sore throat, painful swallowing, chest discomfort and increased levels of heartburn after the procedure. Be sure to stay on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours and eat a soft diet for several days during this recovery time.
  • Your physician will prescribe medications to manage any possible side effects and antacids to help the esophagus heal.
  • After the recovery period, you can return home, but will not be allowed to drive for 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Your physician will schedule a follow-up endoscopy appointment several weeks after your procedure and may need to repeat the procedure two or three times until Barrett’s esophagus is cleared and normal, healthy tissue replaces the abnormal esophageal lining.
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