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Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Jul;94(7):1802-7.

Assessment of esophageal emptying post-pneumatic dilation: use of the timed barium esophagram.

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Center for Swallowing and Esophageal Disorders, Department of Gastroenterology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio 44195, USA.



The reported success rate of pneumatic dilation in patients with achalasia varies from 50% to 93%. This wide variability may be due to using symptom relief post-dilation as the only assessment of success. There are no studies comparing subjective symptom improvements to objective improvement in esophageal emptying after pneumatic dilation.


Patients with achalasia undergoing pneumatic dilation from 1995 to 1997 were evaluated. Pre- and post-dilation symptoms were recorded using a standardized scoring system. Barium column height was measured 1 min and 5 min after upright ingestion to assess esophageal emptying. Based on percentage of total symptom and barium height improvement post-dilation, patients were grouped according to one of nine outcomes; the association between subjective and objective parameters of improvement was tested.


A total of 37 patients underwent 53 pneumatic dilations. There was a significant association (p < 0.001) between improvement in patient symptoms and barium height. In 38 of 53 (72%) pneumatic dilations, the degree of symptom and barium height improvement was similar. Near complete symptom resolution was reported after 26 dilations. In eight of 26 (31%) patients however, there was < 50% improvement in barium height (group A). Compared with the 16 patients with 91-100% improvement in both symptoms and barium height (group B), forward stepwise regression identified age as the only difference between the two groups, with group A patients being significantly (p = 0.04) older.


Objective assessment of esophageal emptying pre- and post-dilation identifies an important subset of patients with poor esophageal emptying who report near complete symptom resolution. This group may benefit from any early repeat pneumatic dilation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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