Achalasia is a common condition that causes difficulty swallowing as a result of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles being unable to relax, making it hard for patients to pass food into the stomach. The cause of this condition is unknown, but is believed to involve infections, hereditary factors or abnormalities within the immune system that cause damage to the esophagus.
In addition to having difficulty swallowing, patients with achalasia often experience chest pain, regurgitation and chronic coughing. If left untreated, achalasia may lead to esophagitis, which is inflammation of the esophagus, unwanted weight loss and aspiration pneumonia.
Achalasia can be corrected through a surgical procedure called Heller myotomy, which cuts the sphincter muscles that join the esophagus and stomach. This limits the activity of the muscle and allows food to pass more easily into the stomach, relieving most patients of their symptoms. Since the sphincter muscles can no longer close completely after this procedure, your surgeon may choose to also perform fundoplication to reduce the risk of the patient developing gastroesophageal reflux.
When performed laparoscopically, this procedure involves tiny incisions and less scarring. A laparoscope and small surgical instruments are inserted into these incisions with ultrasound guidance so your doctor can effectively repair the sphincter muscles. Most patients can return home the same day or after an overnight hospital stay,
Laparoscopic Heller myotomy is considered safe for most patients with achalasia, and most are able to achieve successful results from the procedure. Like any other type of surgery, there are certain risks associated with Heller myotomy, including infections, anesthesia problems or damage to the lung, spleen, stomach, esophagus or liver. Some patients may also develop symptoms of achalasia over time.
To learn more about our Achalasia Services, please contact us at (516) 627-5262 today to schedule an appointment.