Achalasia is a rare disorder of the esophagus characterized by impaired ability to push food down toward the stomach and a failure of the lower esophageal sphincter (the ring-shaped muscle at the bottom of the esophagus) to relax.
- Trouble Swallowing
- Excessive Weight Loss
- Chest pain
The traditional approach to treating achalsia is to reduce pressure in the lower esophageal valve surgically, cutting the muscle from the skin through an external incision.
However, Erlanger is one of a handful of health systems in the United States offering a less-invasive approach to treatment called Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM). POEM means:
- Peroral – By mouth
- Endoscopic – Using an endoscope, a flexible tube
- Myotomy – Cutting of the lower esophageal valve
With POEM, the GI physian uses an endoscope to tunnel down through the esophagus, cut the overly tight lower esophageal valve, and then close up the tunnel.
Endoscopic procedures like POEM offer the benefit of not requiring incisions in the chest or abdomen and a minimal hospital stay after the procedure