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March 1997

Heller Myotomy Is Superior to Dilatation for the Treatment of Early Achalasia

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery (Drs Anselmino, Perdikis, and Wilson and Mr Polishuk), Radiology (Dr Terry) and Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology (Dr Lanspa), Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Neb; and the Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla (Dr Hinder).

Arch Surg. 1997;132(3):233-240. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430270019002

Objectives:  To study the pretreatment characteristics that predispose a patient to rupture and to compare the outcome after dilatation with the outcome after surgical myotomy.

Design:  A survey of all patients treated for achalasia at the Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha, Neb, during a 16-year period. Clinical examination and testing of consenting patients at 12 months and longer after treatment.

Setting:  Tertiary referral center.

Patients:  Of the 61 patients, 55 were treated with dilatation. Esophageal rupture developed in 8 patients (14.5%) with achalasia after pneumatic dilatation; these patients underwent surgery for the rupture. Dilatation failed in 8 other patients; these patients underwent a surgical myotomy. Six patients underwent a primary surgical myotomy.

Main Outcome Measures:  Duration of symptoms, weight loss, lower esophageal sphincter resting pressure and relaxation, amplitude and quality of distal esophageal contractions (assessed by manometry), 24-hour esophageal pH, and maximal esophageal diameter (assessed by barium swallow examination).

Results:  Surgical myotomy at a mean (±SEM) of 44.9±18.6 months alleviated dysphagia in 13 (93%) of the 14 patients compared with only 12 (39%) of the 31 patients after dilatation at a mean (±SEM) of 55.0±11.7 months (P<.001). Of the 14 patients who underwent surgical myotomy, 13 (93%) were able to return to a normal diet compared with only 2 (7%) of the 31 patients who underwent dilatation (P<.001). Compared with patients without perforations, patients with perforations after pneumatic dilatation had pretreatment characteristics consistent with "early" disease: shorter symptom duration (20.1±5.4 vs 68.9±4.9 months, P<.001), less weight loss (4.7±1.2 vs 10.3±0.8 kg, P<.001), a less dilated esophagus (24.0±1.8 vs 45.6±3.0 mm, P<.005), lower lower esophageal sphincter resting pressures (19.3±2.6 vs 34.2±1.3 mm Hg, P<.001), a greater percentage of lower esophageal sphincter relaxation (47.6%±4.9% vs 20.7%±2.1%, P<.001), and a lower percentage of synchronous contractions in the distal esophageal body (66.2%±4.9% vs85.3%±2.3%, P<.005). (All data given as the mean [±SEM].) All patients with pneumatic perforations were successfully treated by thoracotomy and surgical repair.

Conclusions:  Surgical myotomy provides a better long-term outcome. The early disease stage is associated with perforation after pneumatic dilatation. Surgical myotomy rather than balloon dilatation should be considered in patients with early achalasia.Arch Surg. 1997;132:233-240

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