Eosinophilic Esophagitis in Children: A Pathologic or Clinicopathologic Diagnosis?

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To determine the accuracy of histopathologic diagnosis in distinguishing eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children with upper aerodigestive symptoms.


Masked review of esophageal biopsy findings and comparison with each child's established clinical diagnosis.


A tertiary care multidisciplinary aerodigestive center.


Children were selected from a longitudinal database of all children referred for upper aerodigestive symptoms who underwent a comprehensive evaluation between September 1, 2004, and September 1, 2007. Three groups were recognized based on clinical presentation, initial histologic review, and therapeutic response: children with EE, GERD, or neither.


Review of esophageal biopsy findings by a pathologist masked to the child's clinical or previous pathologic diagnosis.

Main Outcome Measure

Masked histopathologic diagnosis of EE, GERD, or neither.


Medical records from 31 patients were reviewed (11 children with EE, 10 with GERD, and 10 with neither). Diagnostic concurrence between the masked pathologic diagnosis and the established clinicopathologic diagnosis was 64% in children with EE, 70% in children with GERD, and 100% in children with neither. The 4 cases of EE that did not concur were misclassified as GERD when esophageal specimens were evaluated by histopathologic means alone. A clinicopathologic schema for EE developed by gastroenterologists accurately identified 82% of children with EE.


The distinction between EE and GERD cannot be reliably made on histopathologic evidence alone in children with upper aerodigestive symptoms. Despite the recent gastroenterology consensus statement regarding the clinicopathologic diagnosis of EE, children with primary airway symptoms in whom EE is suspected represent a diagnostic dilemma.

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