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World J Gastrointest Endosc. Aug 16, 2013; 5(8): 379-390
Published online Aug 16, 2013. doi: 10.4253/wjge.v5.i8.379
Endoscopic approach to achalasia
Michaela Müller, Alexander J Eckardt, Till Wehrmann
Michaela Müller, Alexander J Eckardt, Till Wehrmann, Department of Gastroenterology, German Diagnostic Clinic, D-65191 Wiesbaden, Germany
Author contributions: All authors contributed equally to the preparation, writing, and editing of this article; all authors read and approved the final manuscript; the authors did not receive any financial support and have no competing interests.
Correspondence to: Till Wehrmann, MD, PhD, Department of Gastroenterology, German Diagnostic Clinic, Aukammallee 33, D-65191 Wiesbaden, Germany.
Telephone: +49-611-577212 Fax: +49-611-577460
Received: February 17, 2013
Revised: March 19, 2013
Accepted: May 8, 2013
Published online: August 16, 2013

Achalasia is a primary esophageal motor disorder. The etiology is still unknown and therefore all treatment options are strictly palliative with the intention to weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Current established endoscopic therapeutic options include pneumatic dilation (PD) or botulinum toxin injection. Both treatment approaches have an excellent symptomatic short term effect, and lead to a reduction of LES pressure. However, the long term success of botulinum toxin (BT) injection is poor with symptom recurrence in more than 50% of the patients after 12 mo and in nearly 100% of the patients after 24 mo, which commonly requires repeat injections. In contrast, after a single PD 40%-60% of the patients remain asymptomatic for ≥ 10 years. Repeated on demand PD might become necessary and long term remission can be achieved with this approach in up to 90% of these patients. The main positive predictors for a symptomatic response to PD are an age > 40 years, a LES-pressure reduction to < 15 mmHg and/or an improved radiological esophageal clearance post-PD. However PD has a significant risk for esophageal perforation, which occurs in about 2%-3% of cases. In randomized, controlled studies BT injection was inferior to PD and surgical cardiomyotomy, whereas the efficacy of PD, in patients > 40 years, was nearly equivalent to surgery. A new promising technique might be peroral endoscopic myotomy, although long term results are needed and practicability as well as safety issues must be considered. Treatment with a temporary self expanding stent has been reported with favorable outcomes, but the data are all from one study group and must be confirmed by others before definite recommendations can be made. In addition to its use as a therapeutic tool, endoscopy also plays an important role in the diagnosis and surveillance of patients with achalasia.

Keywords: Achalasia, Pneumatic dilation, Botulinum toxin injection, Per oral endoscopic myotomy, Dysphagia, Laparoscopic cardiomyotomy

Core tip: Upper gastrointestinal-endoscopy is an important part in the diagnostic algorithm of achalasia. Although it does not have a high sensitivity in detection of early stage achalasia, it is essential to rule out pseudoachalasia. This updated review included the newest data on treatment and surveillance of achalasia patients with special emphasis on the new treatment option of per oral endoscopic myotomy, including all fulltext publications until January, 2013.