Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

How do opioids affect the esophagus?

2020  | Disease: Esophageal DiseasesEsophageal Gastroenterology

Principal Researcher: Dustin Carlson, MD

Co-Principal Researcher: Erica Donnan, MD | 

Principal Investigator: Dustin Carlson, MD; Co-Principal Investigator: Erica Donnan, MD

In 2017, more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in the United States. Opioids frequently cause many gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, reflux and constipation, yet not much is known about how opioids affect the esophagus and swallowing. Opioids can lead to symptoms that mimic esophageal disorders such as achalasia that could result in unnecessary invasive procedures including surgery. The largest study of its kind, this project will look into how opioids affect esophageal motility. Using the Esophageal Center of Northwestern’s motility registry, Drs. Carlson and Donnan have access to some 4,000 patients who have undergone high-resolution manometries to assess esophageal function. The team will look at patients who have had motility studies at Northwestern while on opioids and evaluate volunteer patients on opioids without swallowing symptoms. Given the widespread use of opioids, patients with opioid- induced swallowing problems will become more common. This study is essential in determining how opioids affect the esophagus so that clinicians can correctly evaluate and treat these patients.

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