Minimally Invasive Surgery for Achalasia

Clinical Services: Cardiothoracic Surgery (Thoracic Surgery)
Upper East Side
525 East 68th Street, M-404
New York, NY 10065
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56-45 Main Street, Suite S376
Flushing, NY 11355
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Northwest Brooklyn
263 7th Avenue, Suite 4H
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Mon-Fri 09:00am - 05:00pm

Achalasia affects the muscle of the esophagus. This disorder causes the band separating the stomach from the esophagus to spasm, which can prevent food from reaching the stomach normally. Currently, it is not known what factors cause achalasia.

Patients suffering from achalasia usually complain of intermittent regurgitation (food coming back up into the esophagus from the stomach) and food feeling like it is "sticking" in the esophagus after swallowing.

Expert achalasia treatment at Weill Cornell Medicine

Diagnosis: Achalasia is diagnosed using tests that examine the structure and function of the esophagus. These tests can include:

Barium swallow: Patients swallow a liquid that will be visible on an X-ray. A series of X-rays are then taken. People with achalasia will often demonstrate abnormal valve relaxation and an absence of normal contractions.

Esophageal manometry: Pressure in the valve between the esophagus and stomach is measured using a small catheter placed into the esophagus. Patients with achalasia typically have an elevated lower valve pressure and experience failure of the valve to relax when they are swallowing.

Endoscopy: During this procedure, a small, flexible telescope is passed through the mouth into the esophagus to examine the esophagus.

Treatment: Achalasia can be complex to treat. It is important to seek expert care for this condition.

Medications that relieve the spasm are typically ineffective and can cause numerous side effects. A procedure called “endoscopic balloon dilation” achieves good results in up to 60 percent of patients, but the benefits often do not last. There is also a risk of perforating the esophagus during dilatation, which requires emergency surgery.

Traditional, “open” surgery for achalasia requires a rib-spreading incision to perform an esophageal "myotomy," or splitting of the abnormally thickened esophageal valve. This carries risks of infection and other complications as well as longer recovery periods.

Minimally invasive achalasia treatment: Weill Cornell thoracic surgeons are able to employ a minimally invasive laparoscopic approach to myotomy in most of our achalasia patients.

After laparoscopic myotomy, patients typically stay in the hospital for only two days, they experience minimal postoperative discomfort, and they are able to eat regular food by the time they are ready to leave the hospital.

Why choose Weill Cornell Medicine for achalasia treatment?

Our patients benefit from:

• The most advanced surgical techniques available today

• Our excellent network of medical professionals, including oncologists, gastroenterologists, and pathologists, working with our thoracic surgeons to ensure patients receive truly comprehensive care

• Treatments tailored specifically to our individual patients

• Our record of excellent outcomes — among the best in the nation — with very low rate of complications

• Expertise in operating on patients with other health problems (such as diabetes, kidney problems, or others) and those who are elderly