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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Feb;10(2):142-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2011.10.032. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Conservative management of esophageal perforations during pneumatic dilation for idiopathic esophageal achalasia.

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Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID), University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



Esophageal perforation is the most serious adverse event of pneumatic dilation (PD) for achalasia; it is usually managed by surgical repair. We investigated risk factors for esophageal perforation after PD and evaluated safety and long-term outcome of nonsurgical management strategies.


We analyzed medical records of patients with achalasia who were treated with PD from 1992-2010 at the University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven, Belgium; all patients with esophageal perforation were contacted to determine long-term outcomes. Achalasia outcomes were assessed by using the Vantrappen criteria.


Of 830 PD procedures performed on 372 patients with manometry-confirmed achalasia (57 ± 1 years, 51% male), 16 were complicated by transmural esophageal perforation (4.3% of patients, 1.9% of dilations). Age >65 years was the only significant risk factor for complications (odds ratio, 3.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-10.2). All patients were treated conservatively with broad-spectrum antibiotics and nothing by mouth. In 6 patients (38%) the clinical course was further complicated by a pleural effusion, which required a drain in 4 patients. One patient (6%) died of mediastinal hemorrhage within 12 hours after PD. Patients with complications were discharged after 19 ± 2.3 days, compared with 4 ± 0.2 days for those without complications (P < .0001). Long-term outcomes (mean follow-up, 84 ± 14 months) were determined for 12 patients (75%); 11 had excellent or good outcomes (69%), and 1 had a moderate outcome (6%).


Age >65 years is a significant risk factor for esophageal perforation after PD. Nonsurgical management of transmural esophageal tears is feasible, with favorable short-term and long-term outcomes, but is not devoid of complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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