Achalasia is a disorder of the esophagus. The esophagus loses the ability to push food down, as the muscular valve between the esophagus and the stomach does not fully relax. This issue makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into the stomach. Caused by damage to the nerves of the esophagus, this rare disorder can occur to anyone at any age, but tends to be most common in adults who are middle-aged or older, and can be inherited.
Symptoms of Achalasia
Achalasia causes various symptoms for various people, which can come on gradually. These include:
- Chest pain, often increasing after eating.
- Problems swallowing liquids and solids.
- Unintended weight loss
- Backflow of food/ regurgitation
How is Achalasia Treated?
Achalasia can be treated using medication, surgery, botox, per-oral endoscopic myotomy, endoscopic dilation, or surgery.
Surgical treatment of Achalasia is referred to esophagomyotomy or Heller myotomy. Often performed using robotic laparoscopic technology, the goal of surgery is to remove the muscle fibers in the lower esophageal sphincter to enable or improve esophageal emptying. During this surgical procedure, it is essential that the lower esophageal sphincter be completely divided, and that the cut in the sphincter (known as a myotomy) extends into the stomach to properly relieve the any obstruction. If the myotomy is incomplete or does not properly extend deep into the stomach, problems with swallowing could continue or recur, post-op.
When Should Achalasia Surgery Be Performed?
Surgery for Achalasia is best performed during the earlier stages of the disease. For those who have been suffering from related problems for years, the esophagus may be dilated or even “sigmoid-shaped,” or formed in the shape of the letter “s.” Surgeries at this time are not always as effective as those conducted earlier.
No surgery is without risks. For patients with achalasia, the risks of surgical intervention can include gastroesophageal reflux disease due to the lower esophageal sphincter being cut to treat the condition.
During both the laparoscopic and and robotic surgeries for achalasia, patients receive general anesthesia and are in surgery for 2-3 hours, with 1-2 days in the hospital post-op to recover.
Oregon Advanced Can Help Resolve This Rare Condition
If you or someone you love is struggling with achalasia, contact Oregon Advanced Surgery. Our surgeons are board-certified and have extensive experience with robotic laparoscopy. We’re here to help and are happy to assist you in making decisions about the best treatment plan for you.