What is achalasia and how is it treated?

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Daniel P. O'Hair, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)

Achalasia is a swallowing disorder that causes patients to experience difficulty with food passing from the esophagus into the stomach. Although the entire esophagus is affected, treatments focus on allowing the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and allow food to pass into the stomach. This allows for proper patient nutrition, a more diverse diet and, importantly, relief of the pain and risk caused by the inability to clear the esophagus of undigested food.

Most treatments, including botox injection and balloon dilation, allow temporary relief. Excellent long-term relief can now be achieved by a simple surgical procedure to inactivate the muscle of the lower esophageal sphincter. A few small incisions on the abdomen allow access to the area. Using a robotic system through those tiny incisions, the muscle is safely divided and patients can resume eating the next day. This usually results in a one-night stay in the hospital.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.