Management of achalasia
Luca Dughera1, Michele Chiaverina1, Luca Cacciotella1, Fabio Cisarò2
1Internal Medicine, Motility and Endoscopy Unit, 2Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, Department of Medicine, San Giovanni Battista Hospital, Torino, Italy
Abstract: Several theories on the etiology and pathophysiology of achalasia have been reported but, to date, it is widely accepted that loss of peristalsis and absence of swallow-induced relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter are the main functional abnormalities. Treatment of achalasia often aims to alleviate the symptoms of achalasia and not to correct the underlying disorder. Medical therapy has poor efficacy, so patients who are good surgical candidates should be offered either laparoscopic myotomy or pneumatic balloon dilatation. Their own preference should be included in the decision-making process, and treatment should meet the local expertise with these procedures. Laparoscopic surgical esophagomyotomy is a safe and effective modality. It can be considered as initial management or as secondary treatment if the patient does not respond to less invasive modalities. Pneumatic dilatation has proven to be a safe, effective, and durable modality of treatment when performed by experienced individuals, and appears to be the most cost-effective alternative. For patients with multiple comorbidities and for elderly patients, who are not good surgical candidates, endoscopic injection of botulinum toxin should be considered a safe and effective procedure. However, its positive effect diminishes over time, and the need for multiple repeated sessions must be taken into consideration. In the management of patients with achalasia, nutritional aspects play an important role. When lifestyle changes are insufficient, it is necessary to proceed to percutaneous gastrostomy under radiological guidance. In the future, intraluminal myotomy or endoscopic mucosectomy will possibly be an option. Further studies are needed to investigate the role of immunosuppressive therapies in those cases in which an autoimmune etiology is suspected.
Keywords: achalasia, esophageal sphincter, botulinum toxin A, dilation
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