From the Journals

AGA Clinical Practice Update: Endoscopic submucosal dissection



The surgical technique endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) is a safe and appropriate option for the complete resection of large, early-stage, malignant gastric lesions, according to a new clinical practice update from the American Gastroenterological Association published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Clinicians should recognize ESD as one of the main treatment modalities for GI cancer enclosed within the superficial esophageal mucosa, which includes squamous cell dysplasia, wrote Peter V. Draganov, MD, of the University of Florida in Gainesville with his fellow experts.

Endoscopic resection is a surgical method used to treat both malignant and nonmalignant GI lesions. Over the past several years, the technique has advanced significantly, progressing from snare polypectomy to endoscopic mucosal resection, with current practice now ESD. The minimally invasive technique is considered first-line therapy in patients with colorectal lesions lacking invasive cancer.

While the technique is widely used in Asian countries, and as practice continues to rise throughout Europe, uptake in the United States has been slow. Several factors may be responsible for this delay, including a lack of ESD experts and training centers, underestimation of the benefits associated with ESD, and a likely bias of American oncologists toward treatment with surgical resection. In recent years, extensive improvements have occurred in ESD technique, such as incorporation of pocket and tunnel strategies, which have significantly contributed to the overall safety and efficacy of the procedure.

“With low thresholds for performing endoscopy for upper GI symptoms and the promotion of screening colonoscopy for colon cancer prevention, more precancerous lesions and early cancers are being detected that may be amenable to endoscopic resection by ESD,” the experts wrote.

For mucosal lesions too large to be removed by standard endoscopic resection, or lesions at high risk of being deemed malignant, the guidelines recommend using ESD to remove these lesions. Dr. Draganov and his colleagues acknowledged that the probability of lymph node metastasis is marginally higher when the procedure is used for these widened indications; however, the risk of metastasis remains sufficiently low. Along those lines, several additional recommendations were made related to the expanded indications for ESD, including use in certain patients with Barrett’s esophagus, colorectal neoplasia, and other forms of superficial gastric cancer.

“Expanded indications for gastric ESD include moderately and well-differentiated superficial cancers that are [more than] 2 cm, lesions [up to] 3 cm with ulceration or that contain early submucosal invasion, and poorly differentiated superficial cancers [up to] 2 cm in size,” the experts stated.

With respect to cost, endoscopic resection was found to provide significant savings in comparison to surgical techniques for the removal of colorectal lesions. The economic analysis revealed that using a lesion-specific ESD model for high-risk patients could allow for notable cost reductions.

“Although some insurers have begun preapproving and covering their members who might benefit from ESD, the hurdles preventing other patients from being covered for this innovative and potentially cost-saving procedure should be removed,” they added.

Other recommendations were made in regards to effective implementation of a stepwise ESD educational model to train American endoscopists on how to properly perform the procedure. The proposed strategy involves completion of a formal training program, independent study, self-practice using animal models, and live viewing of cases by ESD experts. In addition, they recommend that newly trained endoscopists complete their first procedures on patients with absolute indications for ESD.

“At present, there is no standardized approach for ESD training in the United States,” the experts wrote. They further explained that “the usual starting point is to attend an ESD course or series of courses that provide increasingly more in-depth exposure.” And they concluded, “a guiding principle should be that our patients’ interests and welfare stand above all else and that patients must not be used as an opportunity for practice or skills acquisition.”

The practice update also recommends that endoscopists avoid the use of techniques that have the ability to produce submucosal fibrosis. Dr. Draganov and his colleagues warn that these practices, such as “tattooing in close proximity to or beneath a lesion for marking” and “partial snare resection of a portion of a lesion for histopathology,” can impede subsequent endoscopic procedures.

Dr. Draganov and several coauthors disclosed financial affiliations with AbbVie, Boston Scientific Corporation, Cook Medical, Olympus America, and others.

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