OBJECTIVES: Although effective in the treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) in children, limited data exist on long-term safety and efficacy of swallowed topical corticosteroids. We investigated whether long-term use of swallowed fluticasone in children with EoE leads to sustained reduction in esophageal eosinophils, and endoscopic and clinical improvement. METHODS: In an open-label, prospective, single-center study, we offered pediatric patients with active EoE fluticasone 2 puffs to swallow twice a day (strengths in μg/puff: 2-4 years: 44, 5-11 years: 110, ≥12 years: 220). Clinical, endoscopic, and histological assessments were performed at baseline and shortly after therapy. If histological remission was seen, fluticasone was continued with clinical follow-ups every 4 months and endoscopic and histological follow-ups yearly. Clinical scores were derived from eight symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, regurgitation, chest pain, dysphagia, food impaction, and early satiety). Endoscopic scores were derived from six features (rings, exudates, furrows, edema, stricture, and shearing). Scores were expressed as ratio (features present/total). In addition to peak eosinophils/high power field (HPF) (primary outcome), histological features (eosinophilic microabscesses, degranulation, superficial layering, basal zone hyperplasia, dilated intercellular spaces, and lamina propria fibrosis) were assessed. Median clinical and endoscopic scores and individual histologic features were compared over 4 time intervals: <4 months, 4-12 months, 13-24 months, and >24 months. Growth and adverse effects were monitored. RESULTS: We enrolled 54 patients, 80% male, median age 6.5 years (range 2-17 years), 85% atopic (57% asthma, 68% allergic rhinitis, and 31% atopic dermatitis), and 74% with food allergy. Mean follow-up was 20.4 months, the longest being 68 months (5.7 years). Esophageal eosinophil counts significantly decreased (median peak eosinophils/HPF at baseline 72, <4 months: 0.5, 4-12 months: 1.75, 13-24 months: 10, and >24 months: 12, all P<0.01). All histological features significantly decreased from baseline to all follow-up time points (all P<0.01). Lamina propria fibrosis significantly decreased (% patients with fibrosis at baseline 92, <4 months: 41, 4-12 months: 50, 13-24 months: 45, and >24 months: 39, all P<0.01). Endoscopic features improved (score at baseline 0.37, <4 months: 0.17, 4-12 months: 0.17, 13-24 months: 0, and >24 months: 0.1, all P<0.01, except at >24 months: P<0.05). Symptoms improved (score at baseline 0.22, <4 months: 0, 4-12 months: 0.11, 13-24 months: 0.11, and >24 months: 0.11, all P<0.05 except at >24 months: P=0.05). In a mixed linear regression model that accounts for correlation of repeated observations in the patient in a per-patient analysis, we found that treatment with swallowed fluticasone led to a statistically significant and sustained decrease in peak esophageal eosinophil counts. Asymptomatic esophageal candidiasis was seen in three children but resolved with anti-fungal therapy. Height and weight z-scores followed expected growth curves. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that swallowed fluticasone is effective as a long-term maintenance therapy for children with EoE, without growth impediment or serious side effects.
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