Value of routine timed barium esophagram follow-up in achalasia after myotomy

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The value of routine timed barium esophagram (TBE) in longitudinal follow-up of achalasia after Heller myotomy is unknown. We prospectively prescribed a yearly follow-up TBE. Purposes were to characterize esophageal emptying over time after myotomy, identify preoperative TBE measures associated with follow-up TBE, and characterize follow-up TBE over time in relationship to reintervention.


From March 1995 to April 2013, 635 patients underwent Heller myotomy for achalasia; 559 had at least 1 follow-up TBE. Temporal trends of 1335 follow-up TBEs in all nonreintervention and reintervention patients were assessed. Multivariable longitudinal analysis identified preoperative TBE measures associated with follow-up TBE.


On average, TBE height and width at 1 and 5 minutes decreased approximately 50% and 60%, respectively, at first postoperative follow-up, and remained stable or slightly decreased for up to 5 years. Wider TBE width at 5 minutes was associated with greater follow-up TBE height and width at 1 minute. Of 118 patients undergoing reintervention, 64 (57%) had only 1 reintervention, with follow-up TBE returning to that of nonreintervention patients. Patients whose follow-up TBE remained abnormal underwent a further reintervention, some normalizing on subsequent TBE, and some not.


Follow-up TBE is valuable postmyotomy, particularly if there is substantial esophageal dilatation preoperatively. Follow-up TBE reassures patients with stable or decreasing TBE measures, permitting decreased follow-up intensity. Reintervention should not be considered a myotomy failure, because a successful, single, nonsurgical reintervention often results in long-term successful palliation. More than 1 reintervention requires intensification of TBE follow-up, facilitating treatment planning.

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