BACKGROUND: Prevalence of short segment Barrett's (SSB) oesophagus, defined as the absence of macroscopic Barrett's but histologically identifiable intestinal metaplasia, has been reported to be 18% based on haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining. AIMS: To define the prevalence of SSB oesophagus using H&E and alcian blue staining and to determine whether SSB oesophagus is associated with inflammation at the gastro-oesophageal junction (GOJ). SUBJECTS: Consecutive patients (n = 158) presenting for endoscopy completed a structured interview. METHODS: Two biopsy specimens taken from the GOJ were stained with H&E, alcian blue and Giemsa. A third specimen was obtained from the distal oesophagus. Intestinal metaplasia was diagnosed if goblet cells were definitely identified by two independent observers. RESULTS: SSB oesophagus was present in 46 (prevalence 36%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 28.5-43.5) using alcian blue staining. If H&E had been the sole staining method used, 50% cases of intestinal metaplasia would have been overlooked. There were no cases of intestinal metaplasia identified by H&E but missed by alcian blue staining. Logistic regression analysis identified age (odds ratio (OR) per decade 1.03, 95% CI 1.01-1.06), histological oesophagitis (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.4-7.2) and inflammation at the gastrooesophageal junction (OR 5.9, 95% CI 2.2-15.6) as independent risk factors for SSB oesophagus. CONCLUSION: Unrecognised SSB oesophagus is highly prevalent in patients presenting for diagnostic upper endoscopy if alcian blue staining is applied.
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