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Dysplastic Barrett's oesophagus is a condition when the cells of 'normal' Barrett's oesophagus develop further abnormal changes. Sometimes these changes can be seen at endoscopy (see figures 1 and 2 below), but sometimes they are only found once small samples (biopsies) are taken from the gullet. These changes are called dysplasia and may be described as 'pre-cancerous'. Dysplasia may be graded as low or high grade to describe the severity of the changes. Dysplastic Barrett's oesophagus is not cancer. However, the risk of developing cancer is much higher than in 'normal' Barrett's. Because the risk of cancer is higher, the team will try to remove these abnormal cells using various treatments which are described on the treatment page, here.

Information about 'normal' Barrett's oesophagus is available here.

Barrett's with dysplasia

Figure 1. Barrett's with abnormal dysplastic-looking area. Source: UHBW NHS Foundation Trust.

Barrett's with dysplasia annotated

Figure 2. Dysplastic-looking area marked. Source: UHBW NHS Foundation Trust.


Like 'normal' Barrett's oesophagus, dysplastic Barrett's oesophagus does not cause symptoms. One of the main factors causing Barrett's oesophagus is the reflux of acid from the stomach into the oesophagus. In some people, acid reflux does not cause significant symptoms. In some people, however, reflux can cause a burning sensation in the lower chest or upper abdomen, difficulty swallowing, or the regurgitation of acid or food into the throat. These symptoms are common in people with Barrett's oesophagus. However, they are caused by the acid going back up into the oesophagus, rather than the change in cells in the oesophagus.