J Korean Med Sci.  2022 Jun;37(23):e184. 10.3346/jkms.2022.37.e184.

Natural History of Asymptomatic Esophageal Subepithelial Tumors of 30 mm or Less in Size

  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Ilsan Paik Hospital, Inje University College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea


No definite guidelines for the management of small esophageal subepithelial tumors (SETs) have been established, because there are limited data and studies on their natural history. We aimed to assess the natural history and propose optimal management strategies for small esophageal SETs.
Patients diagnosed as esophageal SETs ≤ 30 mm in size between 2003 and 2017 using endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) with a minimal follow-up of 3 months were enrolled, and their esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and EUS were retrospectively reviewed.
Of 275 esophageal SETs in 262 patients, the initial size was < 10 mm, 10–20 mm, and 20–30 mm in 104 (37.8%), 105 (38.2%), and 66 (24.0%) lesions, respectively. Only 22 (8.0%) SETs showed significant changes in size and/or echogenicity and/or morphology at a median of 40 months (range, 4–120 months). Tissues of 6 SETs showing interval changes were obtained using EUS-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy; 1 was identified as a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and was surgically resected, while the other 5 were leiomyomas and were regularly observed. Eight SETs showing interval changes were resected surgically or endoscopically without pathological confirmation; 1 was a GIST, 2 were granular cell tumors, and the other 5 were leiomyomas.
Regular follow-up with EGD or EUS may be necessary for esophageal SETs ≤ 30 mm in size considering that small portion of them has a possibility of malignant potential. When esophageal SETs ≤ 30 mm show significant interval changes, pathological confirmation may precede treatment to avoid unnecessary resection.


Endosonography; Esophagus; Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors; Subepithelial Tumors
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