Background: Although rare, esophageal achalasia is the best described primary esophageal motility disorder. Commonly used treatments are endoscopic botulin toxin injection (EBTI), endoscopic balloon dilation (EBD), and surgical myotomy with or without a fundoplication; however, reported outcomes mostly come from cohort studies.
Objective: To summarize and compare the safety and efficacy of endoscopic and surgical treatments for esophageal achalasia.
Methods: A systematic electronic Medline literature search of articles on esophageal achalasia. Treatment options reviewed included EBTI, EBD, and surgical myotomy using open and minimally invasive techniques. Main outcome measures were frequency of symptom relief, prevalence of post-treatment gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and complications. Outcome probability was estimated using weighted averages of the sample prevalence in each study, with weights equal to the number of patients. Outcomes, within or across studies, were compared using meta-analysis and meta-regression, respectively.
Results: A total of 105 articles reporting on 7855 patients were selected, tabulated and reviewed. Symptom relief after EBD was better than after EBTI (68.2% vs. 40.6%; OR 3.4; 95% CI, 1.2–9.8; P = 0.02), and the need for additional therapy was greater for patients receiving EBTI (46.6% vs. 25%; OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.05–6.5; P = 0.04). Laparoscopic myotomy, when combined with an antireflux procedure, provided better symptom relief (90%) than all endoscopic and other surgical approaches and a low complication rate (6.3%). The incidence of postoperative GER was lower when a fundoplication was added to a laparoscopic myotomy (31.5% without a fundoplication vs. 8.8% with; OR, 6.3; 95% CI, 2.0–19.4; P = 0.003).
Conclusions: EBD is superior to EBTI. Laparoscopic myotomy with fundoplication was the most effective surgical technique and can be considered the operative procedure of choice.