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J Gastrointest Surg. 2001 Mar-Apr;5(2):192-205.

A decision analysis of the optimal initial approach to achalasia: laparoscopic Heller myotomy with partial fundoplication, thoracoscopic Heller myotomy, pneumatic dilatation, or botulinum toxin injection.

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  • 1Department of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Surgical Research, Legacy Systems, Portland, Ore, USA.


In the absence of randomized controlled trials that directly compare all of the modern methods of managing achalasia, decision analysis may help determine the optimal treatment strategy. Four strategies for the initial management of achalasia were compared using the following decision model: (1) laparoscopic Heller myotomy and partial fundoplication; (2) pneumatic dilatation; (3) botulinum toxin injection; and (4) thoracoscopic Heller myotomy. Probabilities of clinical events and utilities of health states were estimated using review of the medical literature and patient interviews. A recursive decision tree (Markov model) was used to simulate all the important outcomes of each initial treatment option, allowing for complications, relapses over time, and transitions between strategies when appropriate. After 10 years, laparoscopic Heller myotomy with partial fundoplication was associated with the longest quality-adjusted survival (quality-adjusted life years [QALY] = 7.41). The difference between this strategy and either pneumatic dilatation or botulinum toxin injection was small. Thoracoscopic Heller myotomy was associated with the poorest quality-adjusted survival (QALY = 7.15). Pneumatic dilatation was the favored strategy when the effectiveness of laparoscopic surgery at relieving dysphagia was less than 89.7%, the operative mortality risk was greater than 0.7%, or the probability of reflux after pneumatic dilatation was less than 19%. In a decision model, laparoscopic Heller myotomy with partial fundoplication is at least as effective as endoscopic approaches for managing achalasia symptoms. However, the differences are small enough that patient preferences and local expertise should be taken into consideration when tailoring a treatment plan for an individual patient.

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