Histologic Findings in Mucosa and Muscularis Propria Biopsied During Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy in Patients With Achalasia

Xiuli Liu, Enoch Kuo, Kai Wang, Yassen B. Perbtani, Dennis Yang, Peter Draganov


Background: Peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) has been increasingly used to treat achalasia. Previous studies have reported high frequency of muscular eosinophilic infiltration in achalasia. Esophageal mucosal changes in achalasia have only been studied in esophagectomy specimens. Cardia mucosal changes in achalasia have not been reported previously. We aimed to further characterize the esophageal, gastric cardia, and muscularis propria changes in achalasia.

Methods: This was a pilot study. Patients with clinically and radiographically confirmed achalasia who underwent POEM were enrolled in the study. Mucosal biopsies were taken 1 cm proximal and 1 cm distal to the gastroesophageal junction, and muscularis propria biopsies were taken from the mid esophagus. Tissues were submitted for histological evaluation.

Results: Eighteen patients (10 male and eight female, mean age: 60.7 (standard deviation (SD): 13) years) were enrolled in this pilot study. Nine patients had type II achalasia, two type III, one type I, five esophageal gastric outlet obstruction, and one unspecific type achalasia. The mean duration of symptoms prior to POEM was 79 (range 1 - 480) months. All patients had a dilated esophagus on examination, but no endoscopic evidence of Barretts esophagus. Esophageal, gastric cardia, and muscular biopsies were performed in 17, 13, and 17 patients, respectively. Basal hyperplasia, spongiosis, ballooning, and parakeratosis were seen in 92.3%, 100%, 100%, and 76.5% of cases, respectively. Intraepithelial lymphocytosis was seen in 70.5% of cases, and active esophagitis was seen in 23.5% of case. Six (35.3%) cases had few intraepithelial eosinophils, but none of them had > 15 eosinophils per high power field. Histologic findings in gastric cardia mucosa included carditis (69.2%), H. pylori gastritis (7.6%), and reactive gastropathy (15.4%). One case (7.6%) showed low-grade dysplasia arising from intestinal metaplasia in the cardia. Absence of ganglion cells in the muscular biopsies was noted in 88.2% of cases, and the remaining two showed rare residual ganglion cells with ganglionitis in one case (5.8%). Muscular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis were observed in 52.9% and 82.3% of the cases, respectively. Two cases (11.7%) had eosinophilic inflammation in the muscularis propria and one of them was accompanied by lymphocytic inflammation.

Conclusions: Muscular biopsies in our study revealed loss of ganglion cells, supporting the view that achalasia is a primary esophageal disease with ganglion cell depletion. Squamous mucosa in achalasia showed changes mimicking reflux and lymphocytic esophagitis. Cardia mucosa in achalasia patients often were inflamed and uncommonly showed intestinal metaplasia and glandular dysplasia.

Gastroenterol Res. 2021;14(5):281-289
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/gr1454


Achalasia; Eosinophilic esophagitis; Ganglion cell; Lymphocytic esophagitis; Peroral endoscopic myotomy

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