Updated Systematic Review of Achalasia, with a Focus on POEM Therapy
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Aim: To systematically review clinical presentation, diagnosis, and therapy of achalasia, focusing on recent developments in high-resolution esophageal manometry (HREM) for diagnosis and peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) for therapy. Methods: Systematic review of achalasia using computerized literature search via PubMed and Ovid of articles published since 2005 with keywords (“achalasia”) AND (“high resolution” or “HREM” or “peroral endoscopic myotomy” or “POEM”). Two authors independently performed literature searches and incorporated articles into this review by consensus according to prospectively determined criteria. Results: Achalasia is an uncommon esophageal motility disorder, usually manifested by dysphagia to solids and liquids, and sometimes manifested by chest pain, regurgitation, and weight loss. Symptoms often suggest more common disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), thus often delaying diagnosis. Achalasia is a predominantly idiopathic chronic disease. Diagnosis is typically suggested by barium swallow showing esophageal dilation; absent distal esophageal peristalsis; smoothly tapered narrowing (“bird’s beak”) at esophagogastric junction; and delayed passage of contrast into stomach. Diagnostic findings at high-resolution esophageal manometry (HREM) include: distal esophageal aperistalsis and integrated relaxation pressure (trough LES pressure during 4 s) > 15 mmHg. Achalasia is classified by HREM into: type 1 classic; type 2 compartmentalized high pressure in esophageal body, and type 3 spastic. This classification impacts therapeutic decisions. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy is required before therapy to assess esophagus and esophagogastric junction and to exclude distal esophageal malignancy. POEM is a revolutionizing achalasia therapy. POEM creates a myotomy via interventional endoscopy. Numerous studies demonstrate that POEM produces comparable, if not superior, results compared to standard laparoscopic Heller myotomy (LHM), as determined by LES pressure, dysphagia frequency, Eckardt score, hospital length of stay, therapy durability, and incidence of GERD. Other therapies, including botulinum toxin injection and pneumatic dilation, have moderately less efficacy and much less durability than POEM. Conclusion: This comprehensive review suggests that POEM is equivalent or perhaps superior to LHM for achalasia in terms of cost efficiency, hospital length of stay, and relief of dysphagia, with comparable side effects. The data are, however, not conclusive due to sparse long-term follow-up and lack of randomized comparative clinical trials. POEM therapy is currently limited by a shortage of trained endoscopists.