Intestinal metaplasia

December 7, 2023

Intestinal metaplasia

Intestinal metaplasia is a non-cancerous change where the cells normally found in an organ or tissue are replaced by the cells normally found in a part of the digestive tract called the small intestine. This change most commonly occurs in the esophagus (where it is called Barrett’s esophagus) and the stomach. Although intestinal metaplasia is a non-cancerous change, in some areas of the body it is associated with a small increased risk of developing cancer in the future. The risk of cancer associated with this change is higher if another type of change called dysplasia is also seen in the same tissue.

Why causes intestinal metaplasia?

Intestinal metaplasia often develops after many years of ongoing injury to a tissue. In the esophagus, the injury is caused by acid from the stomach moving back up into the esophagus. The acid damages the cells that normally cover the inside surface of the esophagus. In the stomach, the injury is usually caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori that infects the stomach and damages the cells that cover the inside surface of the stomach.

How does a pathologist make the diagnosis of intestinal metaplasia?

Pathologists make this diagnosis after examining a sample of tissue under the microscope. No other special tests are usually required to make the diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with acid reflux disease (GERD) or Helicobacter infection, your doctor may remove a small sample of tissue in a procedure called a biopsy and send it to a pathologist to look for intestinal metaplasia.

About this article

Doctors wrote this article to assist you in reading and comprehending your pathology report. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about this article or your pathology report. To get a comprehensive introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

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