Objective: The aim of this retrospective study was to determine the risk factors of early complications after progressive pneumatic dilation for achalasia.
Methods: Five hundred four dilations were performed in 237 consecutive achalasic patients between 1980 and 1994 with the same technique: low-pressure pneumatic dilation every other day with balloons of increasing diameter until success criteria were obtained (depending on manometric examination and esophageal x-ray transit performed 24 h after each dilation). Clinical, radiographical, endoscopical, and manometrical data as technical procedure characteristics for patients with perforations or other early complications were compared with those without complications.
Results: We observed 15 complications (6% of patients): 7 perforations (3%), 3 asymptomatic esophageal mucosal tears, 4 esophageal hematomas, and 1 fever. Perforations occurred in 6 of 7 patients during the first dilation. The mean age was 68.5 yr in the group with complications versus 56.4 yr for the remainder (p < 0.05). Two deaths occurred in patients older than 90 yr. Instability of the balloon during dilations was noted in 8 of 15 cases of complications versus 57 of 222 patients (p < 0.05). No other data differed significantly.
Conclusions: This study showed a low prevalence of early complications using this progressive technique. Patients with hiatal hernia, esophageal diverticulum, or vigorous achalasia may safely undergo progressive pneumatic dilation. Only patients older than 90 yr should be referred for progressive pneumatic dilation with caution. Most of perforations arose during the first dilation, but there was no predictive pretherapeutic factor of perforation.