Review article: an analysis of the efficacy, perforation rates and methods used in pneumatic dilation for achalasia

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Oct;34(8):832-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04816.x. Epub 2011 Aug 17.


Background: Pneumatic dilation has re-emerged as a first line treatment for achalasia, but conclusions are limited by the relatively small numbers of patients studied and the lack of long term follow-up.

Aim: To summarise and analyse 29 available studies evaluating pneumatic dilation for achalasia with focus on efficacy, rate or perforation and dilation technique.

Methods: A literature search for all studies, in which pneumatic dilation was performed for treatment of achalasia, was conducted. Studies, in which clear endpoints of efficacy of single dilation sessions over a period of years, were chosen.

Results: The response for a single dilation session was 66% at 1 year and 59, 53, 50 and 25% at 2, 3, 5 and 10 years respectively. Use of a Rigiflex dilator and multiple dilations during the initial treatment improved efficacy. Overall perforation rate was only 2% (24/1358) of which only 1% required surgery. Use of multiple dilations led to increased perforation risk. The method of dilation used with regard to balloon size, pressure used, dilation times and single or multiple dilations varied in almost every study.

Conclusions: Pneumatic dilation is safer than commonly thought and efficacious, although multiple dilations will be needed over a lifetime in most patients. Standardisation of the technique should be attempted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization / methods*
  • Catheterization / standards
  • Esophageal Achalasia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome