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Heterogeneity of Lower Esophageal Sphincter Function in Children With Achalasia

Morera, Claudio; Nurko, Samuel

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: January 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 1 - p 34–40
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3182293d8c
Original Articles: Gastroenterology

Background and Aim: Achalasia is a rare esophageal motor disorder in children. The manometric hallmarks are esophageal body aperistalsis, lack of lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation, and high LES pressure. However, LES relaxation and function may be heterogeneous, making the diagnosis difficult at times. The aim of the study was to describe LES function in children with achalasia.

Patients and Methods: The present study is a retrospective review of manometric tracings of pediatric patients with achalasia and controls. LES response after each swallow was evaluated. LES parameters were defined as homogeneous (normal or abnormal) if the same response was observed in >75% of swallows. Otherwise, the LES parameters were considered heterogeneous.

Results: Twenty-nine patients with achalasia and 16 control patients were included. All of the controls had normal LES pressure and relaxation in all of the wet swallows. In the achalasia group, some LES relaxation was present in 74% of swallows and 25% of swallows had normal relaxation. Depending on the parameter, a heterogeneous LES (resting pressure, relaxation, residual pressure, and duration of relaxation) was observed in 27.6% to 34.5% of patients with achalasia versus 0% of the controls (P < 0.001). The rest of the patients with achalasia had homogeneous abnormal responses versus homogeneous normal responses in 100% of control patients (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: The LES function in pediatric patients with achalasia is heterogeneous. The classic description of a nonrelaxing high-pressure LES in patients with achalasia is rarely found in children. Partial relaxations are common, and normal relaxations may be present.

Center for Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Samuel Nurko, MD, MPH, Children's Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA 02115 (e-mail:

Received 1 March, 2011

Accepted 18 May, 2011

The present study was supported in part by NIH grant K24-DK082792A (S.N.).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2012 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN