Background: The aim of this study is to apply high-resolution endoluminal sonography (HRES) to the study of the esophageal disease in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Methods: An HRES transducer was used to image the esophagus. Autopsy specimens of normal and SSc esophagi were imaged to define a hyperechoic abnormality in the normally hypoechoic muscularis propria. The presence or absence of this hyperechoic abnormality of the esophagus in SSc patients was compared with sonographic findings in normal volunteers. The degree of the hyperechoic abnormality was correlated with the results of functional esophageal studies including esophageal motility, lower esophageal sphincter pressure, and 24-hour pH monitoring in SSc patients. Results: A hyperechoic abnormality in the normally hypoechoic muscularis propria on HRES seemed to correspond with the presence of fibrosis on histological sections from the distal esophagus in SSc autopsy specimens. A significant difference was found in the presence of this hyperechoic abnormality in patients with SSc when compared with normal controls (P < 0.001). Finally, there were strong positive correlations between the degree of this hyperechoic abnormality and esophageal manometric abnormalities (r = 0.89; P < 0.001) and supine (r = 0.74; P < 0.01) and total (r = 0.70; P < 0.02) acid reflux on 24-hour pH monitoring. Conclusions: HRES is a sensitive new method to determine the presence or absence of hyperechoic abnormalities in the muscularis propria and to predict functional abnormalities of the esophagus in patients with SSc.
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