Randomized Controlled Trial of Botulinum Toxin Versus Laparoscopic Heller Myotomy for Esophageal Achalasia

Giovanni Zaninotto, Vito Annese, Mario Costantini, Alberto Del Genio, Michela Costantino, Magdalena Epifani, Giovanni Gatto, Vittorio D'Onofrio, Luigi Benini, Sandro Contini, Daniela Molena, Giorgio Battaglia, Berardino Tardio, Angelo Andriulli, Ermanno Ancona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare laparoscopic cardia myotomy and fundoplication with botulinum toxin (BoTx) injection in patients with esophageal achalasia. Summary Background Data: Although myotomy is thought to offer better results, recent studies have reported 80% success rates after 2 BoTx injections a month apart. No randomized controlled trials comparing the 2 treatments have been published so far. Materials and Methods: Newly diagnosed achalasia patients were randomly assigned to BoTx injection or laparoscopic myotomy. Symptoms were scored; lower esophageal sphincter resting and nadir pressures were measured by manometry; barium swallow was used to assess esophageal diameter pre- and post-treatment. Eight to one hundred units of BoTx were injected twice, a month apart, at the esophagogastric junction. Myotomy included anterior partial (Dor) or Nissen fundoplication. Results: Eighty patients were involved in the study: 40 received BoTx and 40 underwent myotomy. Mortality was nil. One surgical patient bled from the trocar site. Median hospital stay was 6 days for surgery; BoTox patients were treated as day-hospital admissions. All patients completed the follow-up. After 6 months, the results in the 2 groups were comparable, although symptom scores improved more in surgical patients (82% confidence interval [CI] 76-89 vs. 66% CI 57-75, P <0.05). The drop in lower esophageal sphincter pressure was similar in the 2 groups; the reduction in esophageal diameter was greater after surgery (19% CI 13-26 vs. 5% CI 2-11, P <0.05). Later on, symptoms recurred in 65% of the BoTx-treated patients and the probability of being symptom-free at 2 years was 87.5% after surgery and 34% after BoTx (P <0.05). Conclusion: Laparoscopic myotomy is as safe as BoTx treatment and is a 1-shot treatment that cures achalasia in most patients. BoTx should be reserved for patients who are unfit for surgery or as a bridge to more effective therapies, such as surgery or endoscopic dilation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-370
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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