Barrett esophagus is defined by the metaplasia of existing squamous mucosa into a specialized intestinal-type mucosa. The importance of this metaplasia is the association of this condition with the development of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Elimination of the metaplastic mucosa may decrease the cancer risk. Currently, several forms of therapy have evolved with the goal of replacing the specialized mucosa with normal squamous mucosa. These proposed treatments include photodynamic therapy and thermal techniques. The effectiveness of photodynamic therapy varies depending on the pharmaceutical photo-sensitizer used and the wavelength of light applied to activate the drug. Thermal techniques include multipolar coagulation, argon plasma coagulation, KTP:YAG laser therapy, Nd:YAG laser therapy, and argon laser therapy. Finally, mucosal resection has been attempted through the endoscope to remove large areas of the Barrett mucosa. All of these ablative strategies attempt to destroy the metaplastic mucosa and promote the regrowth of squamous epithelium. These therapies have demonstrated the ability to "reverse" the metaplasia to varying degrees, but a decrease in cancer risk has not been demonstrated conclusively with any of these treatment methods.
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