Timed barium esophagogram: A simple physiologic assessment for achalasia

Srdjan V. Kostic, Thomas W. Rice*, Mark E. Baker, Malcolm M. DeCamp, Sudish C. Murthy, Lisa A. Rybicki, Eugene H. Blackstone, Joel E. Richter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Objective: Success of achalasia therapy is difficult to determine because repeated physiologic study is impractical and symptoms are subjective. Timed barium esophagography directly measures esophageal emptying and is simple to perform. This study (1) evaluates the assessment of myotomy by timed barium esophagography and (2) compares it with premyotomy and postmyotomy symptoms. Methods: Fifty patients ingested 250 mL low-density barium and had upright films at 1, 2, and 5 minutes premyotomy. Forty-five underwent repeat timed barium esophagography 8 weeks (median) postmyotomy. Premyotomy and postmyotomy height and width of the barium column were compared and related to symptoms. Results: At 1, 2, and 5 minutes premyotomy, median barium column height was 19, 17, and 15 cm, and width was 5.2, 4.8, and 4.5 cm, respectively. Surgery reduced these to 7.0, 5.0, and 1.0 cm and to 3.5, 3.0, and 1.0 cm, respectively (P < .001). Postmyotomy complete esophageal emptying was seen in 29%, 36%, and 49% at 1, 2, and 5 minutes. Postmyotomy height was unrelated (r ~ 0.2) to premyotomy height but was directly related to premyotomy width (r = 0.3-0.5; P < .05); postmyotomy width was directly related to premyotomy width (r ~ 0.6; P < .001). Premyotomy dysphagia was more severe when little change in width occurred from 1 to 5 minutes (r = 0.26, P = .07). Premyotomy regurgitation was more severe the higher the barium column (r ~ 0.4, P < .007). Surgery relieved symptoms in the majority of patients (grade 2-5 dysphagia from 72% to 4%, grade 2-5 regurgitation from 79% to 4%). Postmyotomy symptoms were unrelated to the timed barium esophagogram. Conclusions: (1) The timed barium esophagogram gives objective confirmation of successful myotomy. (2) Symptoms are unreliable in assessing esophageal emptying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-946
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Surgery


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