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Summary

Background  Achalasia, an oesophageal motor disease, is associated with functional oesophageal obstruction. Food stasis can predispose for oesophagitis. Treatment aims at lowering of the lower oesophageal sphincter pressure, enhancing the risk of gastro-oesophageal reflux. Nevertheless, the incidence of oesophagitis after achalasia treatment is unknown.

Aim  To investigate the incidence and severity of oesophagitis in achalasia patients treated with pneumatic dilatation.

Methods  A cohort of 331 patients with achalasia were treated with pneumatic dilatation and followed. Oesophagitis and stasis were assessed by endoscopy and inflammation was graded by histology.

Results  251 patients were followed for a mean values of 8.4 years (range: 1–26). The average number of endoscopies with biopsy sample sets per patient was 4 (range: 1–17). Three patients had no histological signs of oesophagitis throughout follow-up, 139 had oesophagitis grade 1, 49 oesophagitis grade 2 and 60 grade 3. Specialized intestinal metaplasia was found in 37 patients. The association between endoscopic food stasis and histological inflammation was significant. The association between endoscopic signs of oesophagitis and histological inflammation was poor.

Conclusions  Forty percent of the achalasia patients develop chronic active or ulcerating oesophagitis after treatment. Inflammation was associated with food stasis. Because the sensitivity of endoscopy to detect inflammation is low, surveillance endoscopy with biopsy sampling and assessment of stasis is warranted to detect early neoplastic changes.