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Barrett’s RF Ablation

How to Prepare | What to Expect On Arrival | What to Expect After | For More Information

Barrett’s radiofrequency (RF) ablation is used for patients with Barrett’s esophagus, a condition which results in damage to the lining of the esophagus before the entrance to the stomach. In many cases, this injury is caused by a chronic condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In some patients, Barrett’s esophagus may progress to a precancerous condition called dysplasia, an immediate precursor to esophageal cancer. Your physician may recommend ablation if you have dysplasia or 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 radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedure, your physician will perform an upper endoscopy by inserting a narrow, flexible tube, or endoscope, through your mouth and into your esophagus. Via the endoscope, a miniaturized electrode delivers short bursts of high-intensity heat energy to destroy precancerous tissue on the lining of the esophagus while minimizing 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 Barrett’s RF Ablation

  • 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 medications, 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 6 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 care (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 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 Barrett’s RF Ablation

  • Plan to arrive 30 to 60 minutes before your scheduled procedure time.
  • You will have an intravenous line placed because the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation or monitored anesthesia. An anesthesiologist will meet with you to discuss your sedation plan.
  • 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 to 90 minutes.
  • During the procedure, you may feel pressure in the abdominal area.

What to Expect after Barrett’s RF Ablation

  • After the radiofrequency ablation 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 need to undergo additional testing. You also will learn 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.
  • Be sure to stay on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours and eat a soft diet for several days up to a week during this recovery time.
  • You may experience a sore throat, painful swallowing, chest discomfort and increased levels of heartburn after the procedure. Your physician will prescribe medications to manage any possible side effects and antacids to help the esophagus heal and alleviate symptoms.
  • 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. You may need to undergo the procedure two or three times until Barrett’s esophagus is cleared and normal, and healthy tissue has replaced the abnormal esophageal lining.

For More Information

The radiofrequency ablation procedure is available at our Evanston and Highland Park GI Lab locations. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an advanced endoscopist, please call 847.570.2030.

NorthShore offers interpretive language services for non-English speaking patients. A request for this no-cost service should be made at the time of appointment scheduling.