Dysphagia after laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (LNF) is commonly attributed to edema and/or improperly constructed wraps, and in some instances the cause can be difficult to identify. We report, for the first time, the development of secondary achalasia after LNF as a cause of late-onset postoperative dysphagia. A total of 250 consecutive patients undergoing LNF were analyzed for the development of postoperative dysphagia at a university hospital. Patients were considered to have secondary achalasia if they met the following four criteria: (1) preoperative manometry demonstrating normal peristalsis and normal lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation; (2) lack of esophageal peristalsis on postoperative manometry or fluoroscopy with or without incomplete LES relaxation; (3) no mucosal lesions seen on endoscopy; and (4) dysphagia refractory to dilatation. The following three groups of patients were identified: patients who developed secondary achalasia (group A, n = 7); patients with persistent dysphagia requiring and responding to postoperative dilatation (group B, n = 12 patients); and patients whose postoperative recovery was not complicated by dysphagia (group C, n = 231). The groups were comparable in terms of all preoperative variables except for age. Patients in group A were older than those in group B (57 years [range 27 to 66 years] vs. 36.5 years [range 27 to 63 years], P = 0.028) but were not significantly older than patients in group C (45 years [range 20 to 84 years], P = 0.42). The onset of severe dysphagia was later in group A than in group B (135 days [range 15 to 300 days] vs. 20 days [range 9 to 70 days], P = 0.002). The median weight loss in group A was also significantly greater than in Group B (15 pounds [range 11 to 44 pounds] vs. 4 pounds [range 0 to 15 pounds], P = 0.0007). Two patients in group A who underwent reoperation failed to improve. Botulinum toxin injections were tried in two patients and Heller myotomy in one with good results. Nine patients in group B improved promptly after one dilatation, and three improved after two dilatations. Secondary achalasia should be considered as one of the causes of persistent dysphagia after an apparently successful antireflux operation. Secondary achalasia tends to occur in older patients and is characterized by a delayed onset of symptoms. Imaging studies are a reliable means of excluding mechanical obstruction as a cause of secondary achalasia, and a negative result should raise the suspicion of secondary achalasia. Esophageal motility studies are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Failure to consider the diagnosis of secondary achalasia can lead to multiple fruitless attempts at dilatation or even inappropriate reoperations.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
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