In argon plasma coagulation (APC), high-frequency energy is transmitted to tissue by ionized gas, thus reducing contact with the tissue to a minimum. Successful endoscopic APC was initially reported in the palliative treatment of gastrointestinal neoplasms. The main objectives in this pilot study were to evaluate the treatment indications, efficacy and safety of the use of APC.
Between September 1994 and January 1996, APC was used to treat 125 patients with various forms of gastrointestinal pathology.
For local palliative treatment, APC was successfully used alongside snare loop coagulation, dilation, stenting and/or radiotherapy to treat the following conditions: carcinoma of the esophagus: 15 patients, mean number of treatment sessions (MTS) 3.3; gastric carcinoma: 10 patients, MTS 4.9; rectosigmoid carcinoma: seven patients, MTS 2.7; carcinoma of the papilla of Vater: two patients, MTS 1.5. Repeated treatment was also effective for tubulovillous adenoma of the rectum (20 patients, MTS 2.5), stomach (three patients, MTS 2.0), duodenum (two patients, MTS 1.5) and papilla of Vater (two patients, MTS 3.0). In addition, APC proved helpful in coagulating the remaining tissue and achieving hemostasis after polypectomy in the colon (18 patients, MTS 1.2) and in endoscopic treatment of Zenker's diverticulum, for coagulation of the tissue bridge and hemostasis (31 patients, MTS 2.5). Finally, APC was helpful in coagulation of multiple gastric polyps (one patient, one session), hemostasis in superficial ulceration of the duodenal bulb (one patient, one session), after dilation of benign stenoses of anastomoses in the esophagus (one patient, one session) and colon (one patient, one session) and for vascular malformations in the colon (three patients, MTS 1.3), duodenum (one patient, one session), antrum (one patient, two sessions), and watermelon stomach (six patients, MTS 2.8). We recognized signs of perforation in six patients after treatment of Zenker's diverticulum (n = 3), polypectomy in the colon (n = 2) and coagulation of angiodysplasia in the cecum. Laparotomy was carried out in two patients; in one, a perforation was sutured, and in the other no focus of leakage was seen. All six patients recovered without further complications. No complications were observed in any other patients.
These initial experiences indicate that APC seems to be effective in a number of indications, and relatively safe. Objective evaluation, a longer follow-up period, and comparative trials with other treatment modalities should follow.