Consider Risk for Barrett's Esophagus After Bariatric Surgery

Heidi Splete

April 29, 2021

Barrett's esophagus occurred in nearly 12% of patients who underwent esophagogastroduodenoscopy after sleeve gastrectomy, but it was not associated with postoperative gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), based on data from 10 studies that totaled 680 adult patients.

Sleeve gastrectomy has become more popular in recent years as an effective strategy for patients with severe obesity, wrote Bashar J. Qumseya, MD, of the University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues. However, GERD is a common concern for patients undergoing sleeve gastrectomy and is the major risk factor for Barrett's esophagus. However, the prevalence of Barrett's esophagus in the sleeve gastrectomy population has not been examined.

In a meta-analysis published in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the researchers reviewed 10 studies that totaled 680 patients who underwent esophagogastroduodenoscopy 6 months to 10 years after a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. The primary outcome was Barrett's esophagus prevalence in sleeve gastrectomy patients, with the prevalence of erosive esophagitis and GERD at follow-up as secondary outcomes.

Overall, 54 patients developed Barrett's esophagus, for a pooled prevalence of 11.6%, and all cases were nondysplastic and de novo. There was no significant association between Barrett's esophagus and the presence of postoperative GERD, the researchers said (odds ratio, 1.74; P = .37).

However, the rate of erosive esophagitis increased by 86% in five studies with long-term follow-up and by 35% in two studies with short-term follow-up, which suggests an increased risk of 13% each year after sleeve gastrectomy, the researchers noted.

Besides the risk of Barrett's esophagus after sleeve gastrectomy, "the risk of [erosive esophagitis] is also of significant interest and shares the same pathophysiology with [Barrett's esophagus] and GERD," they emphasized.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the small sample size and the focus on Barrett's esophagus rather than erosive esophagitis or GERD as the primary outcome, the researchers noted. However, the results indicate that sleeve gastrectomy patients are at increased risk for Barrett's esophagus, and larger studies are needed to better understand the pathophysiology. Furthermore, although there is some debate regarding the risk of GERD and erosive esophagitis after sleeve gastrectomy, the authors wrote that the data from their study showed a "consistent and substantial trend" toward more erosive esophagitis after sleeve gastrectomy.

"Gastroenterologists, primary care providers, and bariatric surgeons should be aware" of the data and should discuss the risks of sleeve gastrectomy with patients before the procedure, including the risks and benefits of postprocedure screening for Barrett's esophagus, they concluded.

Consider Surveillance for Barrett's

The study is important because of the increased rates of GERD and potentially Barrett's esophagus that have been noted after sleeve gastrectomy, Gyanprakash A. Ketwaroo, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, said in an interview.

"Many of these studies have been small, and the findings of meta-analyses have been limited by high heterogeneity," he noted. "With the rise in popularity of sleeve gastrectomy, it is important to accurately assess potential long-term complications."

Ketwaroo said he was not surprised by the study findings given several reports of increased GERD after sleeve gastrectomy. "Given the accepted pathophysiology of Barrett's esophagus, I anticipated increased risk of Barrett's esophagus after sleeve gastrectomy as well.

"Clinicians should consider surveillance for Barrett's esophagus after sleeve gastrectomy, and possible early proton pump inhibitor use for both GERD/erosive esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus chemoprophylaxis. Patients with longer-segment or dysplastic Barrett's esophagus prior to sleeve gastrectomy may have to be monitored more closely after surgery," he said.

Ketwaroo noted that the study was limited by the small sample size, "with only approximately 50 patients with Barrett's esophagus after surgery among 680 overall." He emphasized that "we will need a much larger prospective study to confirm this finding. Additionally, I would want to explore if sleeve gastrectomy increases rate of progression of dysplasia in those who develop Barrett's esophagus."

The study received no outside funding. Lead author Qumseya had no financial conflicts to disclose. Ketwaroo serves on the GI & Hepatology News editorial advisory board.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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