Airway manifestations of pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis: A clinical and histopathologic report of an emerging association

Eileen H. Dauer, Jens U. Ponikau, Thomas C. Smyrk, Joseph A. Murray, Dana M. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives: Pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) typically presents with dysphagia, vomiting, dyspepsia, or food impaction. The purpose of this study was to highlight the emerging association of pediatric EE and airway disease. An additional goal of this study was to describe the unique histopathologic findings found in EE and specifically explore the potential role of the cytotoxic protein called eosinophil major basic protein (MBP) in the pathophysiology of the disease. Methods: A retrospective review of 3 children with EE and airway symptoms included symptom presentation, aerodigestive tract endoscopic findings, ambulatory 24-hour dual pH-metry, allergy tests, treatment modalities, and treatment response. Esophageal tissue obtained from biopsies of each patient was evaluated by hematoxylin and eosin to determine the number of eosinophils per high-power field, by immunofluorescent anti-MBP staining to determine the presence of MBP, and by standard light and transmission electron microscopy to evaluate eosinophil migration patterns. Results: All patients had airway inflammation that included nonspecific laryngeal edema and grade I or II subglottic stenosis. Allergy testing was positive in the 2 patients who were tested. All patients had symptoms refractory to standard reflux therapy. Ambulatory pH-metry findings were normal in 2 patients and abnormal in 1 patient despite maximum treatment. Two patients had visual abnormalities seen during esophageal examination. The number of eosinophils ranged from 20 to 45 per high-power field, Intracellular and extracellular MBP deposition was found in all esophageal biopsy specimens. All patients were treated with swallowed fluticasone, and 2 had symptom relapses that required repeat treatment. Conclusions: The spectrum of pediatric EE can include upper airway disease. Intracellular and extracellular MBP deposition is present in EE, which potentially releases cytotoxic mediators that explain the esophageal and airway clinical symptoms seen in those with the disease. Eosinophilic esophagitis should be considered in patients with a history of atopic diseases and unexplained upper airway findings refractory to reflux treatment. Treatment with swallowed fluticasone is successful; however, relapses are common and require repeat treatment and close follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Dysphagia
  • Eosinophil
  • Esophagitis
  • Fluticasone
  • Major basic protein
  • Pediatrics
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Subglottic stenosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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