Update on the management of achalasia: balloons, surgery and drugs

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Achalasia cannot be cured. Instead, our goal is to relieve symptoms of dysphagia and regurgitation, improve esophageal emptying and prevent the development of megaesophagus. The most definitive therapies are pneumatic dilation and surgical myotomy. The overall success of grade pneumatic dilation is 78%, with women and older patients performing best. Laparoscopic myotomy has an overall success rate of 85%, but can be complicated by the sequelae of severe acid reflux disease. Young patients, especially men, are the best candidates for surgical myotomy. There are no prospective, randomized studies comparing these two procedures. Botulinum toxin injections into the esophagus and smooth muscle relaxants are reserved for older patients or those with major comorbid illnesses. Some patients with end-stage achalasia will require esophagectomy.

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