Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA is a treatment, which uses radiofrequency, a type of heat therapy to destroy the abnormal cells called dysplasia. It can also be used to treat the entire area of Barrett’s oesophagus. The treatment is given during an endoscopy procedure and patients go home the same day.

Before the procedure patients are given a sedative to make them sleepy. A tiny probe is used during an endoscopy to deliver the radiofrequency to the affected parts. The procedure takes about 30-45 minutes depending on how big the area being treated. Some people return to normal activity immediately after treatment, but you may feel nauseous and have chest pain, particularly when eating. This can last for around 5-10 days in most people, although, for a few, the discomfort can last for up to 3 weeks. This treatment is usually repeated two or three times at intervals of two to three months until not only the dysplasia, but also the entire Barrett’s Oesophagus has been removed. Very few people (around 1 in 20) suffer scarring of the oesophagus and if so, the oesophagus may need gentle stretching called a dilatation which is done as part of an endoscopy procedure.

The outcomes of this treatment for dysplasia are very promising. Approximately 85% of patients have reversal of the dysplasia at the end of the course of treatment, which usually takes a few months to complete. At the moment patients having the treatment have follow-up endoscopies to ensure they remain well.

Although RFA can be used very successfully to completely remove the Barrett’s oesophagus, we do not recommend it unless people already have dysplasia. The reason for this is that most patients will never get dysplasia or cancer and, although the treatment is generally safe, side effects do occasionally occur.