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Diffuse esophageal spasm is a rare motility disorder and although diagnosis has improved over the years, optimal treatment remains controversial. The aim of this study was to determine the success rates of alternative treatments for diffuse esophageal spasm.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies which reported treatment outcomes in patients with diffuse esophageal spasm. The primary outcome measure was success rate. Secondary outcome measures were morbidity and mortality.
Ten observational studies involving 101 patients (35 male, 66 female, median age 61 years) with diffuse esophageal spasm treated with nifedipine (n = 24), botulinum toxin (n = 41), and surgery (n = 46) were analyzed. At a median follow-up of 8 months, the overall success rates for nifedipine, botulinum toxin, and surgery were 42.74% (95% c. i. [42.68–42.79], p < 0.00001), 74.39% (95% c. i. [74.27–74.52], p < 0.00001), and 95.74% (95% c. i. [95.69–95.80], p < 0.00001), respectively. Morbidity after surgery was 2% and no operative deaths were reported.
Surgery appears to be safe and the most successful treatment. The less invasive medical and botulinum toxin therapies provide short-term symptom relief.