Esophagitis in Pediatric Esophageal Atresia

A recent study (JL Yasuda et al. JPGN 2019; 69: 163-70) shows that esophagitis is common with and without proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy in children with esophageal atresia (EA).

Background: This study encompassed 310 patients (34% long gap EA) and 576 endoscopies (median age 3.7 years)

Key findings:

  • Erosive esophagitis was found in 8.7% of patients.
  • 15.2% of patients had esophagitis with >15 eos/hpf; 49% of patients had ≥1 eos/hpf (histologic eosinophilia)
  • 87% of endoscopies were preceded by acid suppression therapy; being on acid suppression reduced the odds for abnormal esophageal biopsy (P=0.011).
  • Histologic esophagitis was “highly prevalent even with high rates of acid suppressive medications use.”
  • For example, among those receiving PPI monotherapy, 150 had normal biopsy and 136 had abnormal biopsy.  Among those off all acid suppression, 30 had normal biopsy and 45 had abnormal biopsy.
  • For erosive esophagitis, this occurred in 12 on PPI and was not present in 274 on PPI therapy. Among those off all acid suppression, 4 had erosive esophagitis and 70 did not.
  • Presence or integrity of fundoplication was not significantly associated with esophagitis.

While this is a large study, the findings have several limitations. This is a single center retrospective study and this center attracts highly complex cases of EA.

My take: In addition to fairly high rates of erosive esophagitis and eosinophilic esophagitis, this study shows a high incidence of microscopic esophagitis, the significance of this is unclear.   This study supports the current recommendations of 3 endoscopies in childhood and perhaps more frequent surveillance in those with more complex EA.

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How Long Should Be PPIs Be Used in Patients with Esophageal Atresia?

A recent study (FR Grunder et al. JPGN 2019; 69: 45-51) examines the use of proton pump inhibitor use after surgical repair of esophageal atresia; this involved a longitudinal cohort (n=73) with prospectively collected data over 11 years.

Background: While PPIs have been used for long-term treatment due to the high frequency of reflux and concerns regarding anastomotic strictures, the authors note that data on long-term outcomes/natural history and benefits/risks of this approach are lacking.

Key findings:

  • 48% of patients had PPIs discontinued at followup.
  • Among the 43 with PPI discontinuation, 40 had endoscopy results available.  Histologic abnormalities were noted in 8 (19%) which was lower than in the group receiving ongoing PPI use (n=19, 63%).. These 8 patients had PPI restarted.
  • Among patients unable to discontinue PPI therapy, there was a higher rate of prior anti-reflux surgical procedure, 27% compared to 5% who had anti-reflux procedure among group who were able to discontinue PPI therapy.
  • Patients more likely to remain on PPIs more frequently had a prior anastomotic leak and/or moderate to severe tracheomalacia.
  • The authors state that among patients receiving PPIs, there was more frequent recurrent pneumonia as well as more frequent use of inhaled beta-adrenergic agonists and steroids. However, this was not shown to be a causal association.  It is unclear whether these patients had more severe esophageal dysfunction or whether PPI use contributed to this outcome.

In their discussion, the authors note that PPIs have not been shown to reduce the rate of anastomotic strictures.  They argue that “PPI could be used more selectively in the following: in children with long-gap EA or anastomotic tension or anastomotic leak; after a first dilatation for anastomotic stricture rather than systematically, given the lack of preventive effect of PPI; and in children whose esophagoscopy demonstrates peptic esophagitis, eosinophilic esophagitis, or gastric metaplasia.”

My take: The authors are probably right that a large fraction of EA patients may not need long-term PPI use.  Selecting which patients will benefit will remain a challenge. Published guidelines recommend monitoring for GERD complications in EA, especially after stopping PPIs.

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Increased Risk of Eosinophilic Esophagitis in Esophageal Atresia Patients

Briefly noted: U Krishnan et al. Analysis of eosinophilic esophagitis in children with repaired congenital esophageal atresia. JACI 2018. Published online Oct 24, 2018.

This retrospective, single-center study examined 4 eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) study cohorts and identified EoE in 20 of 110 patients (18%) who had surgically-repaired esophageal atresia.

This association has been seen previously: . 2014 Dec 21; 20(47): 18038–18043.  This case study stated ” We are suggesting that EoE is a frequent concomitant problem in patients with history of congenital esophageal deformities, and for this reason any of these patients with refractory reflux symptoms or dysphagia (with or without anastomotic stricture) may benefit from an endoscopic evaluation with biopsies to rule out EoE.”

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Pain in Children with Severe Neurologic Impairment

A recent commentary (JM Hauer JAMA Pediatrics; 2018. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1531) addresses a common misconception regarding children with severe neurologic impairment (SNI):

“we don’t think she experiences pain”

She notes that literature since 2002 has challenged this assumption and that this is addressed in a new AAP clinical report as well (Hauer J, Houtrow AJ. Pediatrics 2017; 139: e20171002).

Key points:

  • Children with SNI may have moaning, grimacing, changes in tone/body position in reaction to pain and treatment can make them comfortable.
  • “We can never prove that such a child does not feel pain…When parents of children with hydranencephaly were asked whether their child felt pain, 96% indicated yes.”
  • Pain can trigger changes in catecholamines, cortisol and stress hormones.  “These considerations suggest that untreated chronic pain is more harmful to the well-being of children with SNI than is treatment used for pain.”
  • Sometimes no source for pain is identified.  This may be related to a CNS etiology (alteration of CNS) and may benefit from treatment.
  • “It is time to do away with the question of whether these children feel pain and focus on how we as individuals” identify/consider pain

My take: Reframing this issue is important; pain can occur in children with SNI.  At the same time, we have to be careful that some “palliative” measures could paradoxically prolong suffering in some children.

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Declining Role of Fundoplication in Esophageal Atresia, Too

A recent study (SA Pellegrino et al. J Pediatr 2018; 198: 60-6) examines the likelihood of redo fundoplication for esophageal atresia (EA) in comparison to redo fundoplication for other indications.

Key findings:

  • Among all EA cases, n=344 (1994-2013), 85 underwent fundoplication (single-center study from Melbourne)
  • Rates of fundoplication were declining over study period: there was a 37% drop from 2010-2013 compared to 1994-97.
  • Overall, 767 patients had a fundoplication (n=682 without EA).  The rates of redo fundoplication were similar 11/85 compared with 53/682, despite the fact that EA patients had earlier surgery with median ages of 7.2 months versus 23 months, respectively.

Factors leading to fewer fundoplications:

  • Improving medical therapies, including proton pump inhibitors and use of jejunal feedings
  • Awareness that fundoplication may not be curative and is associated with significant morbidity

Anecdotally, I have had some EA patients whose lives were transformed positively by fundoplication, though many are difficult operations due to anatomic factors like small gastric volumes and pulmonary issues.  Careful selection and surgical expertise are essential to good outcomes.

My take: The authors note that “this study challenges the assertion that fundoplicaiton is less successful in patients with EA.”

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Esophageal Atresia and Barrett’s Esophagus

Briefly noted: FWT Vergouwe et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2018; 16: 513-21.

In this prospective study of adult patients with esophageal atresia (EA) with 151 participants, 6.6% had Barrett’s Esophagus (BE); squamous cell cancer (SCC) was identified in 0.7% (youngest at 42 years).  The authors note that the prevalence of BE and SCC were ~4-fold and ~100-fold higher, respectively, compared to the general population.

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Guideline Links: Infant Cholestasis and Esophageal Atresia-Tracheoesophageal fistula

One way that I use this blog is to use the search function for previous posts with useful links.  For example, I know if I search “foreign” that I will come across a post that has a summary as well as a link to the NASPGHAN recommendations on Foreign Bodies (Foreign Bodies in Children -Expert Guidance).

This post has two links :

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