Peroral endoscopic myotomy, or POEM, should be considered as primary therapy for type III achalasia and as a treatment option comparable with laparoscopic Heller myotomy for any of the achalasia syndromes – but only when physicians with expertise are available, according to a clinical practice update from the American Gastroenterological Association.

Further, post-POEM patients should be considered at high risk of developing reflux esophagitis and should be advised of the management considerations, including potential indefinite proton pump inhibitor therapy and/or surveillance endoscopy, prior to undergoing the procedure, Peter J. Kahrilas, MD, of Northwestern University, Chicago, and his colleagues wrote in the update, which is published in the November issue of Gastroenterology (2017. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.10.001).

In an effort to describe the place for POEM among the currently available robust treatments for achalasia, the authors conducted a literature review – their “best practice” recommendations are based on the findings from relevant publications and on expert opinion.

In determining the need for achalasia therapy, they agreed that patient-specific parameters should be considered along with published efficacy data. Important parameters include Chicago Classification subtype, comorbidities, early vs. late disease, and primary or secondary causes.

Additionally, they said POEM should be performed by experienced physicians in high-volume centers since the procedure is complex and an estimated 20-30 procedures are needed to achieve competence.

The update and these proposed best practices follow the evolution of POEM over the last decade: it began as an exciting concept and is now a mainstream treatment option for achalasia, the authors said.

“Uncontrolled outcome data have been very promising comparing POEM with the standard surgical treatment for achalasia, laparoscopic Heller myotomy (LHM). However, concerns remain regarding post-POEM reflux, the durability of the procedure, and the learning curve for endoscopists adopting the technique,” they wrote, which, when coupled with recent randomized controlled study data showing excellent and equivalent 5-year outcomes with pneumatic dilation and LHM, make the role of POEM somewhat controversial.

As part of the review, they considered the strengths and weaknesses of both POEM and LHM. The data comparing POEM with LHM or pneumatic dilation remain very limited, but based on those that do exist, the authors concluded that “POEM appears to be a safe, effective, and minimally invasive management option in achalasia in the short term.”

Long-term durability data are not yet available, they noted.

Dr. Kahrilas received funding from the U.S. Public Health Service.


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