Background & aims: Intrasphincteric injection of botulinum toxin has been suggested as an alternative treatment modality in esophageal achalasia. A controlled trial comparing botulinum toxin, placebo, and pneumatic dilation is reported.
Methods: Sixteen patients received random intrasphincteric injections of either botulinum toxin or saline. The efficacy of treatment was assessed by symptom score, esophageal manometry, and scintigraphy. In case of failure, pneumatic dilation was performed.
Results: One month after injection, symptoms had improved in all patients treated with botulinum toxin (symptom score, 0.9 +/- 0.6 vs. 5.5 +/- 1.4; P < 0.02). In the placebo group, symptoms were unchanged in all patients, who were all dilated. Lower esophageal sphincter pressure decreased by 49% after treatment with botulinum toxin (P < 0.03) and by 72% after dilation (P < 0.01). Similarly, esophageal retention decreased by 47% after treatment with botulinum toxin (P < 0.02) and by 59% after dilation (P < 0.02). No significant difference in symptom score and esophageal function test results was found between patients treated with botulinum toxin injections and those undergoing dilation. However, 7 of the 8 patients in the botulinum toxin group required a second injection because of recurrent dysphagia.
Conclusions: Treatment of achalasia with botulinum toxin was as effective as pneumatic dilation in relieving symptoms and improving esophageal function. The effect of the first injection was temporary, but the effect of the second injection lasted longer.