Photodynamic therapy (PDT) was recently approved by the Food and Drag Administration for palliating obstructing esophageal cancer. This report reviews our initial experience using PDT to treat malignant dysphagia. Patients with inoperable, obstructing esophageal cancer were considered for PDT. Photofrin was injected 48 hours before endoscopic laser activation. Dysphagia score was assessed. Thirty patients underwent 53 PDT courses. Improvement in dysphagia occurred in 83%. Mean dysphagia score decreased from 2.8 to 1.8 (p < 0.05). Complications included esophageal stricture (9.4%), candida esophagitis (5.7%), symptomatic pleural effusion (5.7%), contained esophageal perforation (1.9%), aspiration pneumonia (1.9%), and sunburn (13.2%). Seventeen patients (57%) required more than one PDT treatment, and in 10 an expandable metal stent was used as an adjunct. The 30-day mortality rate was 7%. PDT is effective in palliating patients with malignant dysphagia. The ideal patient for PDT has an obstructing, primarily endoluminal esophageal tumor with minimal extrinsic compression.
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