An Overview of the Role of Calcium Antagonists in the Treatment of Achalasia and Diffuse Oesophageal Spasm

Document Type


Publication Date



Early studies confirmed the beneficial effects of calcium channel blockers on the normal oesophagus, which included a decrease in lower oesophageal sphincter tone in achalasia and a decrease in oesophageal contractions and amplitude in diffuse oesophageal spasm. This resulted in the enthusiastic use of the drugs in both disorders. With further experience, and with increased recognition of side effects, the role of these drugs in the 2 disorders has been better clarified. Clinical trials in general have not reflected the improvement observed in the manometric parameters. Only a minority of patients appear to derive sustained symptomatic benefit. Calcium channel blockers may be the initial choice for high or moderate risk patients with achalasia prior to proceeding with pneumatic dilatation or surgical myotomy. In diffuse oesophageal spasm, they are a reasonable first choice for all risk categories.