Current clinical approach to achalasia

Eckardt, Alexander J.; Eckardt, Volker F.; Wallace, Ian D.
August 2009
World Journal of Gastroenterology;8/28/2009, Vol. 15 Issue 32, p3969
Academic Journal
Idiopathic achalasia is a rare primary motility disorder of the esophagus. The classical features are incomplete relaxation of a frequently hypertensive lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and a lack of peristalsis in the tubular esophagus. These motor abnormalities lead to dysphagia, stasis, regurgitation, weight loss, or secondary respiratory complications. Although major strides have been made in understanding the pathogenesis of this rare disorder, including a probable autoimmune mediated destruction of inhibitory neurons in response to an unknown insult in genetically susceptible individuals, a definite trigger has not been identified. The diagnosis of achalasia is suggested by clinical features and confirmed by further diagnostic tests, such as esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), manometry or barium swallow. These studies are not only used to exclude pseudoachalasia, but also might help to categorize the disease by severity or clinical subtype. Recent advances in diagnostic methods, including high resolution manometry (HRM), might allow prediction of treatment responses. The primary treatments for achieving long-term symptom relief are surgery and endoscopic methods. Although limited high-quality data exist, it appears that laparoscopic Heller myotomy with partial fundoplication is superior to endoscopic methods in achieving long-term relief of symptoms in the majority of patients. However, the current clinical approach to achalasia will depend not only on patients' characteristics and clinical subtypes of the disease, but also on local expertise and patient preferences.


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