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Pneumatic Dilation for the Treatment of Achalasia in Untreated Patients and Patients With Failed Heller Myotomy

Guardino, Jason M., DO, MS*; Vela, Marcelo F., MD*; Connor, Jason T., MS; Richter, Joel E., MD*

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: November-December 2004 - Volume 38 - Issue 10 - p 855-860
Alimentary Tract: Clinical Research

Background: Laparoscopic Heller myotomy (HM) has become an increasingly preferred modality to treat achalasia. However, the treatment course after a failed myotomy is controversial with fears that pneumatic dilation (PD) has high perforation risk.

Goal: To compare success and safety of graded PD with Rigiflex balloons in achalasia patients without a prior HM (untreated cases) and those with a failed HM.

Study: A total of 108 patients were retrospectively evaluated: 96 untreated cases (53 male, 43 female, mean age 51 years) and 12 failed HM(7 male, 5 female, mean age 54 years). Symptoms (dysphagia and regurgitation) and physiologic studies, lower esophageal sphincter pressure (LESP) and timed barium swallow, assessed pre- and post-PD. Success was defined as: 1) symptom improvement to ≤2 to 4 times per week, and 2) ≥80% decrease in 5-minute barium column height from initial timed barium swallow.

Results: A total of 139 PDs performed (117 untreated cases, 22 failed HM): 2 perforations in untreated cases and none in failed HM group. Baseline demographics were similar, but failed HM patients had significantly lower LESP and timed barium swallow columns. Despite less LES resistance, failed HM group (symptom and physiologic success: 50% and 10%) did not do as well after PD as compared with untreated cases (symptom and physiologic success: 74% and 52%, respectively). Five failed HM patients had good symptom relief after PD compared with poor responders these patients were older (>50 years) and had LESP >17 mm Hg.

Conclusions: PD perforation risk is not higher after HM. Despite lower LES pressure, patients undergoing PD after failed HM do not do as well as untreated cases. Factors predicting better outcome include older age and higher LES pressure.

From the Departments of *Gastroenterology and Hepatology and †Biostatistics, Center for Swallowing and Esophageal Disorders, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH.

Received for publication December 18, 2003; accepted March 3, 2004.

Previously presented as an oral presentation at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, Baltimore MD, and published as an abstract.

Reprints: Joel E. Richter, MD, Department of Medicine, 3401 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19140 (e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.