Respiratory symptoms of megaesophagus

  • Fabio Di Stefano | Pneumology, Allergy and Respiratory Physiopathology Unit, Spirito Santo Hospital, Pescara, Italy.
  • Lorenzo Migliorato Radiology Unit, Spirito Santo Hospital, Pescara, Italy.


Megaesophagus as the end result of achalasia is the consequence of disordered peristalsis and the slow decompensation of the esophageal muscular layer. The main symptoms of achalasia are dysphagia, regurgitation, chest pain and weight loss, but respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, particularly when patients lie in a horizontal position, may also be common due to microaspiration. A 70-year old woman suffered from a nocturnal cough and shortness of breath with stridor. She reported difficulty in swallowing food over the past ten years, but had adapted by eating a semi-liquid diet. Chest X-ray showed right hemithorax patchy opacities projecting from the posterior mediastinum. Chest computed tomography scan showed a marked dilatation of the esophagus with abundant food residues. Endoscopy confirmed the diagnosis of megaesophagus due to esophageal achalasia, excluding other causes of obstruction, such as secondary esophagitis, polyps, leiomyoma or leiomyosarcoma. In the elderly population, swallowing difficulties due to esophageal achalasia are often underestimated and less troublesome than the respiratory symptoms that are caused by microaspiration. The diagnosis of esophageal achalasia, although uncommon, should be considered in patients with nocturnal chronic coughs and shortness of breath with stridor when concomitant swallowing difficulties are present.



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Imaging in Internal Medicine
esophageal achalasia, megaesophagus, microaspiration, respiratory symptoms.
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How to Cite
Di Stefano, F., & Migliorato, L. (2013). Respiratory symptoms of megaesophagus. Italian Journal of Medicine, 7(1), 53-55.