Pattern of esophageal eosinophilic infiltration in patients with achalasia and response to Heller myotomy and Dor fundoplication



Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is now recognized as a common cause of dysphagia. Eosinophilic infiltration of the esophagus has also been associated with other conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); however, the incidence, pattern, and clinical significance of eosinophilic infiltration in achalasia are poorly documented. We sought to characterize this histological finding in patients undergoing Heller myotomy (HM) for achalasia. Ninety-six patients undergoing laparoscopic HM for primary achalasia between 1999 and 2008 were identified from a prospective database. Serial mid and distal per-endoscopic esophageal biopsies taken from patients before and after surgery were assessed for the presence of elevated intraepithelial eosinophils (EIEs). Slides from patients with reports suggestive of EIE were reviewed independently by two pathologists, and the highest eosinophil count/high-power field (eos/hpf) was recorded. Dysphagia scores (0 = none to 5 = severe dysphagia), GERD health-related quality of life scores (0 = best to 45 = worst), and 24-hour pH results were compared before and 3 months after surgery. We related the highest eos to the symptoms and response to HM. Data are presented as median (range). Paired t-test and Wilcoxon signed-rank test determined significance, *P < 0.05. Of 96 patients with achalasia, 50 had undergone pre-HM biopsies revealing EIE in 17/50 (34%), with a median of 3 eos/hpf (1–21). Two patients were found to have superimposed esophageal candidiasis. One patient met the pathologic criteria for EoE. Twenty-five of 50 (50%) postoperative biopsies demonstrated a median of 5 eos/hpf (1–62) for a total of 28/50 patients (56%) with EIE in either the preoperative or postoperative period. Four patients (8%) met the pathologic criteria for EoE, and two demonstrated persistent esophageal candidiasis. A decrease in eosinophils was found in 6/28 patients (21%) from 3/hpf (1–21) to 0.5/hpf (0–4). Increase in eosinophils was found in 22/28 patients (79%) from 0.5/hpf (0–8) to 5/hpf (1–62). Preoperative and postoperative dysphagia scores were available in 23 patients. Dysphagia scores improved in 22/23 patients. (3 [0–5] to 0 [0–2])*. Preoperative and postoperative GERD scores were available in 21 patients. GERD scores improved in 20/21 patients (10 [3–38] to 2 [2–14])*. Four of 13 patients (30.7%) demonstrated significant reflux in the postoperative period. No difference in clinical response to HM was detected between patients with preoperative EIE compared with patients with no EIE. No correlation between postoperative esophageal pH and eos was observed. A significant number of patients with achalasia demonstrate esophageal eosinophilic infiltration even at numbers demonstrable in patients with EoE (8% 4/50). While the interaction between achalasia and esophageal eosinophilic infiltration needs further investigation, this does not represent a distinct clinical entity. Thus, the presence of esophageal eosinophils in patients presenting with dysphagia should not preclude further work-up for other etiologies, including achalasia.