Cricopharyngeal obstruction in inflammatory myopathy (polymyositis/dermatomyositis). Report of three cases and review of the literature

Arthritis Rheum. 1985 Jun;28(6):630-6. doi: 10.1002/art.1780280606.


Three adults, 2 of whom had polymyositis and 1 with dermatomyositis, developed dysphagia during the course of their illness. Results of esophageal manometry supplemented with esophageal radiography indicated the presence of cricopharyngeal achalasia. Because of the severity of this disorder, which is associated with aspiration of esophageal contents into the airways, surgery to divide the cricopharyngeal musculature was performed in 2 patients, giving complete relief of their symptoms. Prednisone dosage was not increased to treat this condition since it arose not from weakness but from obstruction. A biopsy specimen taken from 1 patient demonstrated inflammatory changes in the obstructing muscle. A review of these 3 patients and 3 previously reported cases indicates that cricopharyngeal obstruction can be a dominant cause of dysphagia in patients with myositis. The recognition of this entity is important in the management of patients with myositis because: it has serious and potentially life-threatening implications; and in certain cases, it can be effectively treated with surgery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Dermatomyositis / complications*
  • Dermatomyositis / pathology
  • Esophageal Achalasia / diagnostic imaging
  • Esophageal Achalasia / etiology*
  • Esophageal Achalasia / pathology
  • Esophagus / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Myositis / complications*
  • Myositis / pathology
  • Pharyngeal Muscles / pathology*
  • Radiography


  • Barium Sulfate