The rapid evolution of fiberoptic endoscopes over the past three decades has greatly enhanced our understanding of esophageal diseases and has stimulated significant improvements in their management. With the early endoscopic diagnosis of infectious and inflammatory lesions, specific medical or surgical treatment can be initiated promptly and the results monitored easily. Although the diagnosis of malignant lesions is still commonly delayed because of the absence of early symptoms, surveillance of Barrett's esophagus offers the hope of more definitive management in these patients. Endoscopy has assumed an increasingly important therapuetic role in patients with inoperable cancer because it provides access for new ablative techniques or the placement of palliative prosthetic devices. Continuing advances in the use of endoscopic ultrasound, the delivery of photodynamic therapy, and the adjunctive application of intraluminal irradiation promise to further broaden the scope of fiberoptic intervention.
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