Gastroesophageal reflux: a determinant in the outcome of caustic esophageal burns

J Pediatr Surg. 1996 Nov;31(11):1494-5. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(96)90163-3.


Deep circumferencial burns of the esophagus always result in stricture formation and obstruction of the lumen. The usual treatment of caustic esophageal strictures is long-term esophageal dilatations. A new method of treatment, long-term stenting of the strictured esophagus gave superior results when compared with the classic dilatation therapy (healing rates, 68% v 33%; P < .01). Although success in the stent group was very satisfactory, the 32% failure rate requires explanation. In the years between 1991 and 1993, 53 stent-treated patients were screened for gastroesophageal reflux (GER). All patients were investigated with 24-hour ambulatory distal esophageal pHmetry. In 18 patients reflux index (RI) was found to be below 4. In 14 patients RI was between 4.1 and 19. In the final group of 21 patients RI was over 20 (minimum, 21.8; maximum, 72.8). When these data were compared with the healing rates of the patients, it was found that none of the 21 patients with RI over 20 responded to the described therapy. We conclude that the esophagus, after a serious caustic insult, not only narrows but also shortens thus altering the lower esophageal sphincter function leading to serious GER. Therefore all caustic esophageal burn patients should be screened for GER periodically during the dilatation or stent therapy programs, and GER should be controlled before RI approaches 20.

MeSH terms

  • Burns, Chemical / therapy*
  • Child
  • Esophageal Stenosis / chemically induced*
  • Esophageal Stenosis / complications
  • Esophageal Stenosis / therapy
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / etiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Stents*
  • Treatment Failure
  • Wound Healing*