Treatment of achalasia: the best of both worlds

Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Jul;89(7):979-85.


Objective: To conduct a retrospective analysis of one center's experience with treating achalasia over 4 yr with skilled gastroenterologists using primarily the Rigiflex balloon dilator and with a senior surgeon performing Heller myotomies.

Methods: Newly diagnosed cases of achalasia were identified by a computer search of hospital records. Charts were reviewed for the presence/severity of dysphagia, regurgitation, heartburn, and chest pain. Weight loss was also recorded. Esophageal manometries and barium swallows were reviewed. Choice of treatment was made freely by patients. With an a priori definition of success, follow-up was conducted by telephone interviews.

Results: A total of 45 achalasia patients (mean age, 46 yr; 32 females, 13 males) were identified with a symptoms-frequency as follows: dysphagia, 100%; regurgitation, 78%; heartburn, 50%; and chest pain, 42%. Mean weight loss was 17.5 pounds. Primary treatment was pneumatic dilation in 36 patients and surgery in nine patients. In a total of 45 pneumatic dilations, three (6.6%) were complicated by perforation. Five (14%) patients required repeat dilation. Mean duration of follow-up for pneumatic dilation and surgery was 27 months and 20.8 months, respectively. The overall excellent-good success rates were: pneumatic dilation 88% and surgery 89%. In comparing the efficacy of pneumatic dilation versus surgery, all symptoms were improved significantly (p < 0.01) in both groups, except heartburn, which increased postmyotomy.

Conclusions: If both procedures are available by skilled operators, pneumatic dilation and surgery are equally effective in the treatment of achalasia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheterization
  • Esophageal Achalasia / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Achalasia / surgery
  • Esophageal Achalasia / therapy*
  • Esophagus / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies