Allergic esophagitis in children: a clinicopathological entity

Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 Apr;23(4):390-6. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199904000-00003.


Infiltration of esophageal epithelium by eosinophils is seen in reflux esophagitis and allergic gastroenteritis. This study was performed to identify differences between patients with acid reflux esophagitis and those with non-acid reflux, possibly allergic, esophagitis. Intraepithelial eosinophils were demonstrated in posttherapy esophageal biopsy specimens in 28 children treated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These patients were divided into three groups based on their response to treatment and the results of esophageal pH probe monitoring. Eleven patients (Group A) had incomplete clinical response and normal pH probe monitoring results. Ten patients (Group B) had incomplete response but did not have pH probe monitoring. These two groups formed the index population. Seven patients (Group C) had clinical improvement with GERD therapy and abnormal pH probe monitoring characteristic of GERD; they constituted the control population. Clinical, laboratory, and pathologic features were evaluated to detect differences between index and control populations. Dysphagia, food impaction, failure to thrive, peripheral eosinophilia, and abnormal allergen skin test results were detected only in Group A and B patients. Biopsy specimens of the distal 9 cm of the esophagus, after GERD therapy, contained larger numbers of eosinophils in Groups A and B than in Group C as shown on high-power fields (HPF) (A: 31/HPF +/- 19.5; B: 28/HPF +/-23.7; versus C: 5/HPF +/-6.7; p = 0.009). Eosinophil aggregates were identified only in Groups A and B (p = 0.07). Eosinophils located preferentially in the superficial layers of the squamous epithelium were noted only in Groups A and B (p = 0.02). Group A and B patients demonstrated clinical improvement when given antiallergic therapy. The authors identified a group of pediatric patients characterized by an allergic history, lack of adequate response to GERD therapy, normal esophageal pH probe monitoring results, and large numbers of eosinophils in esophageal biopsy specimens obtained after GERD treatment. On the basis of these features, the authors propose that these patients represent examples of allergic esophagitis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eosinophilia / immunology
  • Eosinophilia / pathology
  • Eosinophilia / therapy
  • Eosinophils / pathology
  • Esophagitis / immunology
  • Esophagitis / pathology*
  • Esophagitis / therapy
  • Esophagus / metabolism
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / immunology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / pathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / pathology*
  • Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Retrospective Studies