Perception of the COVID-19 pandemic in patients with achalasia and its impact on gastrointestinal symptoms: a proof-of-concept study

Authors Luigi Ruggiero, Paola Iovino, Chiara Ameno, Rossella Palma, Antonella Santonicola.


Background Currently, no data are available on COVID-19 pandemic perception in patients with achalasia. We evaluated how the COVID-19 lockdown was perceived by these patients and its impact on their upper gastrointestinal symptoms.

Methods COVID-19 perception was assessed in 64 patients with achalasia using a previously published survey. Upper gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed using a standardized questionnaire and the results were compared to those obtained before the COVID-19 pandemic. All questionnaires were administered by telephone/video calls during the second Italian lockdown.

Results Fifty-one patients (79.7%) responded to the survey. For the question “On a 0-100 scale, how worried are you about the COVID-19 pandemic?” the mean score was 72.8±27.1, and 64.7% of patients with achalasia gave a score >60 on a visual analog scale of 0-100. In addition, those who considered themselves more vulnerable or anxious about contracting the infection than the general population, showed a significantly higher score for COVID-19 fear compared to those who felt less vulnerable or anxious (79.7±27.6 vs. 62.5±23.6, P=0.027; 80.9±19.6 vs. 57.1±33.1, P=0.002, respectively). The selected patients (n=29), who had not undergone any  hange in medical/surgical treatment for at least one year before the COVID-19 pandemic, had a significant worsening of the intensity-frequency score of regurgitation, heartburn, odynophagia, water brash, and epigastric burning during the lockdown (P<0.05). Finally, 75% of the patients were very interested in using Telemedicine.

Conclusions The COVID-19 lockdown had a significant impact on the psychological aspects and upper gastrointestinal symptoms of patients with achalasia. Telemedicine might represent a follow-up strategy.

Keywords Esophageal achalasia, COVID-19, telemedicine, anxiety, stress

Ann Gastroenterol 2022; 35 (5): 489-495

Original Articles