Spectrum of histopathologic findings in patients with achalasia reflects different etiologies

Department of General and Abdominal Surgery, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.
Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Impact Factor: 3.5). 04/2006; 21(4):727-33. DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2006.04250.x
Source: PubMed


The etiology of achalasia is still unknown. The aim of the present study was to elucidate its underlying pathologies and their chronology by investigation of esophageal specimens in patients undergoing surgery (esophageal resection or myotomy) for achalasia.
In 17 patients with achalasia, histopathologic examinations of the esophageal wall focussing on the myenteric plexus were performed. Preoperative diagnosis was based on clinical evaluation, esophagogastroscopy, barium esophagogram in all, and esophageal manometry in eight patients. The median age at the time of surgery was 54 years (range: 14-78 years). In eight cases, the complete esophageal, body and in nine cases a smooth muscle biopsy including parts of the myenteric plexus from the distal part of the esophagus (high pressure zone) was available. The tissue specimens were fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin. The staining procedures were hematoxylin and eosin (HE), Elastica van Gieson (EvG), and periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) reaction. Immunohistochemical examinations were performed with antibodies against B and T lymphocytes, neurofilament, protein gene-related product (PGP 9.5), S-100 protein, myosin, desmin, smooth muscle actin and substance P.
In 13 of 17 patients, a significant reduction of the number of intramural ganglion cells was present. Common findings were a severe fibrosis of the smooth muscle layer (10/17) and obvious myopathic changes of the smooth muscle cells (5/17). Staining for B and T lymphocytes found signs of inflammation in mucosal and muscular areas. Three patients exhibited a marked invasion of eosinophilic granulocytes of the muscularis propria (eosinophilia). Esophageal carcinoma had developed in three patients (squamous cell carcinoma in two and carcinoma in situ in another patient with Barrett's esophagus and high-grade dysplasia). Severe inflammatory reactions (neural, eosinophilic and mucosal) dominated in patients with a longstanding history of achalasia (>10 years) as well as a marked endomysial fibrosis.
The histopathological investigations of the esophageal wall in 17 patients undergoing esophageal resection or myotomy for achalasia suggest that the reduction of intramural ganglion cells might be a secondary change, probably due to inflammation triggered by autoimmune mechanisms or a chronic degenerative process of the central and/or peripheral part of the vagal nerve. The primary lesion could also be a severe myopathy of the smooth muscle cells.

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    ABSTRACT: The American Journal of Gastroenterology is published by Nature Publishing Group (NPG) on behalf of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Ranked the #1 clinical journal covering gastroenterology and hepatology*, The American Journal of Gastroenterology (AJG) provides practical and professional support for clinicians dealing with the gastroenterological disorders seen most often in patients. Published with practicing clinicians in mind, the journal aims to be easily accessible, organizing its content by topic, both online and in print., *2007 Journal Citation Report (Thomson Reuters, 2008)
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    ABSTRACT: To determine DNA aneuploidy in mucosal biopsies of achalasia patients for subsequent rapid diagnosis. Biopsies from the middle third of the esophagus were obtained in 15 patients with achalasia. Immunohistochemical staining was carried out with monoclonal antibodies MIB-1 for Ki67 and PAb 1801 for p53, in addition to the conventional histologic examination for dysplasia. Nuclei of fresh biopsy material were enzymatically and mechanically isolated, and the DNA content was determined with image cytometry after Feulgen staining. DNA grading of malignancy was assessed according to Boecking to determine the variability of DNA values noted around the normal diploid peak. Further indices measured included the aneuploid rate, and the 5c-, 7c- and 9c-exceeding rate. The histological examination did not demonstrate dysplasia; while MIB-1 (basal) showed a positive reaction in 8/15 achalasia specimens, p53 was negative in all specimens. Image cytometric DNA analysis detected aneuploidy in 4/15 (26.7%) specimens. Samples from 15 patients with squamous cell carcinoma as well as specimens obtained exclusively 2 cm proximal to the tumor served as reference tests. All carcinomas (15/15) as well as 9 of the peritumoral samples (9/15) were aneuploid. The comparison of biopsies from achalasia patients with peritumoral and carcinoma specimens revealed statistically significant differences regarding the aneuploid rate (diploid: P < 0.0001; tetraploid: P = 0.001), grading of malignancy according to Boecking (P < 0.0001) and the 5c- (P < 0.0001), 7c- (P < 0.0001), and 9c- (P = 0.0001) exceeding rate with progredient DNA alterations in the respective order. The finding that DNA aneuploidy was identified by image cytometry in esophageal specimens of patients with achalasia, which may be due to specific chromosomal alterations presenting as precancerous lesions in 27% of patients, leads us to conclude that image cytometry represents a valuable screening tool.
    Preview · Article · May 2006 · World Journal of Gastroenterology

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