Achalasia of the esophagus is a condition characterized by a lack of movement of
food through the esophagus toward the stomach. People with achalasia often experience difficulty swallowing and/or vomiting undigested
food. Recurrent episodes may cause pneumonia, especially in the elderly. If this
condition worsens, weight loss and malnutrition may develop. Pain is infrequent,
but heartburn may result due to food caught in the esophagus.
Achalasia can be treated with an operation called the Heller Myotomy that lasts
about two hours. Laparoscopic surgery uses a thin, telescope-like instrument called
a laparoscope, which is inserted through a small incision at the belly button. The
laparoscope is connected to a tiny video camera which projects a view of the operative
site through video monitors located in the Operating Room. The abdomen is inflated
with carbon dioxide to allow surgeon a better view of the operative area. Two or
three additional small incisions are made near the laparoscope through which the
surgeon inserts specialized surgical instruments to perform the operation. Following the procedure, the small incisions are closed
with sutures and covered with surgical tape.