Comparative Study
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A single center 26-year experience with treatment of esophageal achalasia: is there an optimal method?

PURPOSE: Treatment modalities for achalasia are evolving and remain controversial. Herein, we report the relative efficacy and outcomes after dilatation or myotomy in children with achalasia.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis of all children treated for achalasia at a tertiary center from 1981 to 2007 was performed (n = 40). Demographics, presenting symptoms, perioperative parameters, and outcomes were analyzed using t tests and chi(2) statistics.

RESULTS: Thirty patients were initially treated by esophageal dilatation (ED), whereas 10 were treated by laparoscopic or open Heller myotomy (HM). Both groups were similar with respect to age (10.6 vs 12.4 years; P = .19). There were 18 males and 12 females in the ED group, compared to 5 males and 5 females in the HM group (P = .72). Mean duration of symptoms before diagnosis, including dysphagia, vomiting, food sticking, chest pain, and weight loss, was 15.9 months for ED and 10.7 months for HM (P = .41). Mean time from diagnosis to initial intervention was 76 days in ED vs 86 days in HM (P = .78). Subsequent interventions by myotomy or both dilatation and myotomy were required in 9 (30%) of 30 patients in the ED group and 2 (20%) of 10 patients in the HM group (P = .70). A clear transition from open to laparoscopic approach occurred between 1995 and 2001. Mean operating times were comparable (186.3 vs 156.0 minutes; P = .48). Of 14 laparoscopic myotomies, 11 (79%) had fundoplication, and 2 (18%) of the 11 were converted to open procedure. Intraoperative mucosal perforation rates were similar between open and laparoscopic groups (17% vs 18%). At follow-up, 32% of ED patients vs 43% HM had complete symptom relief (mean follow-up duration, 75.2 months; SD, 196.5).

CONCLUSION: Both dilatation and myotomy are effective immediate treatment of achalasia. A clear transition to and preference for laparoscopic approach has occurred in the treatment of achalasia in children.

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