Multiple endoscopic specimens were obtained from 58 patients with a columnar lined gesophagus to study the histological and histochemical features of this metaplastic epithelium. Five patients (8.6%) had presented with a primary oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Three different epithelial types, junctional, atrophic fundic and intestinal were identified. Twenty two (38%) patients had just one type of epithelium present, the other 36 (62%) having a combination of two or three different types. Intestinal type of epithelium, either alone or in combination with gastric type epithelium was present in 48 (83%) patients. In every case this intestinal type epithelium took the form of an incompletely differentiated variant of intestinal metaplasia, although complete intestinal metaplasia as a focal change was also present in 14 of these patients. Histochemically, sulphomucins were present in the biopsies of 43 (74%) of the patients studied. They were seen in both goblet and columnar mucous cells with almost equal frequency. Incomplete intestinal metaplasia with sulphomucin production was present in four of the five patients with an oesophageal adenocarcinoma. In the columnar lined oesophagus sulphomucin production is common and its presence does not help to identify those individuals at particular risk of developing an adenocarcinoma.
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