Introduction: In esophageal achalasia, pneumatic dilations (PD) provide short-term and long-term remission rates of 60-90% and 40-50%, respectively. The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term efficacy of repeated PD as long-term maintenance therapy.
Patients and methods: From 1992 to 2004, 150 patients with esophageal achalasia treated by PD were included in this retrospective study (78 males, mean age 57 +/- 20 yr). PD were performed until remission was achieved (symptom score < or = 3, each item < 2) and subsequently when symptomatic recurrence occurred. A standardized symptoms questionnaire was sent to patients lost to follow-up. Results are expressed as mean +/- SD.
Results: Initial remission was achieved in 137 of 150 (91.3%) patients with 2.67 +/- 1.59 dilations [range 1-12]. Failure and perforation rates were 7.3% (n = 11) and 1.3% (n = 2), respectively. After initial remission, 48 of 137 (35%) patients had recurrent symptoms; the probability to be in remission at 5 and 10 yr was 67% and 50%, respectively. At the end of follow-up (45 +/- 38 months, ext. 2-144) 108 of 137 (78.8%) patients were in remission. Among 112 patients whose symptoms could be treated by repeated PD (per protocol analysis), 108 (96.4%) were in remission (3.5 +/- 2.1 PD, ext. 2-12). In this group, the probability of being in remission after repeated PD at 5 and 10 yr was 96.8% and 93.4%, respectively. No pretherapeutic factor influenced long-term remission rate. The overall prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux was 34.7%.
Conclusion: One-third of the patients with esophageal achalasia treated by PD will experience symptomatic recurrence during a 4-yr period. Long-term remission can be achieved in virtually all the patients treated by repeated PD according to an "on-demand" strategy based on symptom recurrence.