Food allergy series: Eosinophilic esophagitis (Part 3)

A first step in addressing EoE should be to eliminate primary GERD or PPI responsive esophageal eosinophilia. This is done by using proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) at doses of 20-40 mg, 1-2/daily for 8-12 weeks in adults and 1 mg/kg per dose, twice daily for 8-12 weeks in children. This treatment is effective when esophageal eosinophilia is due to GERD.

There is a subset of patients with primary EoE and secondary GERD. These patients may or may not meet conventional pH criteria for diagnosing reflux. In these patients, PPI’s alone are not sufficient to treat EoE.

Dietary management is a mainstay of EoE treatment. It is extremely effective in children, with near-complete resolution of symptoms and histological abnormalities. Strict use of amino acid based formula, dietary restriction based on extensive allergy testing, and elimination of most likely allergens have all been used. Elemental therapy is the most effective. Food tolerance is unlikely to be achieved, even after long term elimination. Methods at achieving food tolerance in EoE patients have not been well studied.

Corticosteroids are effective in adults and children, but disease almost always recurs even stopped. Systemic steroids should be used in emergencies only due to the host of long term problems associated with chronic use. Topical steroids are usually effective, but steroid resistance has been reported and local fungal infections can occur. Fluticasone and oral viscous budesonide have been effective in studies. Budesonide can potentially reverse esophageal fibrosis.

Some medications used to manage mast cells, which are often elevated in EoE patients, have been trialed for EoE. Cromolyn sodium has not apparent therapeutic effect for EoE patients. Leukotriene receptor antagonists might be effective at high dosages, but this is unclear. One study on TNF-a blocker did not show benefit. Disappointingly, clinical response to anti IL-5 was variable. Anti-IL-5, anti-IL-13 and anti-eotaxin are possible future therapies.

Food impaction, in which food is retained in the esophagus, requires emergency intervention. This has been found to occur in 11-55% of EoE adults across multiple studies.

Esophageal rings are commonly found in EoE patients and inherently imply stricturing. Strictures larger than 1 cm are found in 11-31% of adults with EoE. 10% of adults have narrow caliber esophagus.

19 patients with EoE have reported perforations that were spontaneous or not due to dilation. Of 14 of these, two suffered full perforations, in which esophageal or gastric contents were found in the chest cavity. Surgical intervention was required. The remaining 12 patients had partial perforations, in which limited air or contrast media moved into the mediastinum from the esophagus. Five patients had partial perforations following endoscopy without dilation. Of the 19 total, 7 needed surgery. None were fatal.

Three instances of circumferential intramural dissection have been noted, and many cases of intramural tearing, either spontaneous or subsequent to endoscopy. Intramural tears are deep lacerations reaching the esophageal submucosa. Circumferential intramural dissection occurs where the esophageal lumen comes away from the esophageal wall in a way that affects a contiguous ring.

There is no evidence that esophageal cancer or generalized EGID results as a complication or progression of EoE. Six patients have reported concurrent Barrett esophagus. However, merely having EoE is not predictive for Barrett esophagus.

Dilation is still considered controversial in the management of EoE with high grade stricturing. This is in part because of a study done before 2008 that found that in a group of 84 adults, 5% suffered perforation and 7% hospitalized for chest pains following the procedure. These rates are much higher than in patient groups who underwent dilation for non-EoE reasons. However, three more recent retrospective studies reported lower rates of complications. Of 404 patients who underwent 839 dilations, only 3% of procedures resulted in perforations – a rate of 0.8%. Perforations were partial and did not require surgery. Chest pain occurred in 5%. One patient had major bleeding that required intervention. Dilation can induce long lasting relief from dysphagia when high grade stricturing is present. Many patients have reported a preference for periodic stricturing rather than daily medication or food elimination.



Liacouras, Chris A., et al. Eosinophilic esophagitis : Updated consensus recommendations for children and adults. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011, pp. 3-20.

Furata, Glenn T., et al. Eosinophilic esophagitis in children and adults: a systematic review and consensus recommendations for diagnosis and treatment. Gastroenterology 2007; 133:1342-1363.

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