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Benefits and risks

Benefits and risks

The evidence that NICE looked at for Barrett's oesophagus with low-grade dysplasia showed that the procedure was safe enough and worked well enough to be used in the NHS for this condition.

When NICE looked at the evidence for Barrett's oesophagus with no dysplasia, it decided there wasn't enough evidence to be sure how well the procedure worked and that it should only be used in a research study for this condition.

The 9 studies that NICE looked at involved a total of 815 patients. Generally, they showed the following benefits:

  • complete removal of low‑grade dysplasia in most patients

  • reduced risk of low‑grade dysplasia progressing to high‑grade dysplasia or cancer in patients regularly followed‑up

  • complete removal of no dysplasia in about 50% of patients after 1 year and, after 5 years, in about 90% of patients who still had disease after 1 treatment when they were retreated.

The studies showed that the risks of radiofrequency energy included:

  • scarring causing narrowing of the oesophagus (called oesophageal stricture) in about 12% of patients, which needed treatment

  • short-lasting inflammation of the oesophagus in 6% of patients

  • short-lasting fever in about 2% of patients

  • 1 patient developed a hole in the oesophagus 6 weeks after the procedure

  • 1 patient developed chest pain 8 days after the procedure and needed to stay in hospital overnight

  • 1 patient on an anti-blood clotting drug for heart disease developed bleeding in the digestive tract, which needed treating.

NICE was also told about some other possible risks: difficulty swallowing and tears in the oesophagus.

If you want to know more about the studies see the guidance. Ask your health professional to explain anything you don't understand.

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