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Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Jun;26(6):784-8.

The pathogenesis of pseudoachalasia: a clinicopathologic study of 13 cases of a rare entity.

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  • 1Department of Anatomic Pathology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio 44195, USA.


Pseudoachalasia is an esophageal motor disorder usually associated with malignancy that has clinical, radiographic, and manometric findings that are often indistinguishable from primary achalasia. There are few reports examining the histologic features of the associated neoplasms and their relationship with the esophageal myenteric plexus. We studied the clinical and pathologic features of 13 cases of pseudoachalasia seen at our institution between 1979 and 1999. Detailed clinical and radiographic data were obtained from medical records. In all cases available histologic material was reviewed to confirm the presence and type of associated neoplasm. When possible, the relationship of the neoplasm to the esophageal myenteric plexus was examined. In selected cases immunohistochemical stains were performed to further evaluate this relationship. All patients had clinical, radiographic, and manometric features similar to primary achalasia. The cohort included seven men and six women, age range 24-79 years (median 61 years). Associated neoplasms included esophageal adenocarcinoma arising in Barrett's esophagus (n = 1), adenocarcinoma of the esophagogastric junction (n = 7), metastatic renal cell carcinoma to the esophagogastric junction (n = 1), breast adenocarcinoma (n = 1), pulmonary small cell carcinoma (n = 1), pleural malignant mesothelioma (n = 1), and mediastinal fibrosis (n = 1). The mechanism of pseudoachalasia was consistent with neoplastic infiltration of the esophageal myenteric plexus in 11 cases. Neoplastic cells surrounded myenteric ganglion cells, which appeared normal in number and morphology. In the patient with pulmonary small cell carcinoma, there was no evidence of neoplastic infiltration of the esophagogastric junction, and anti-ANNA-1 antibody was detected, suggesting a paraneoplastic syndrome. Tissue obtained at the time of esophagomyotomy revealed lymphocytic myenteric inflammation and marked depletion of ganglion cells identical to that seen in primary achalasia. The mechanism pseudoachalasia in the patient with breast adenocarcinoma is uncertain, as there was no evidence of direct involvement of the esophagogastric junction. In summary, we describe 13 cases of pseudoachalasia resulting in a clinical syndrome indistinguishable from primary achalasia. The most common mechanism is direct involvement of the esophageal myenteric plexus by neoplastic cells. Rarely, a distant neoplasm may cause this syndrome as a paraneoplastic process.

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