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Minimally Invasive Surgery for Achalasia: An 8-Year Experience With 168 Patients

Patti, Marco G. MD*; Pellegrini, Carlos A. MD; Horgan, Santiago MD; Arcerito, Massimo MD*; Omelanczuk, Pablo MD; Tamburini, Andrea MD*; Diener, Urs MD*; Eubanks, Thomas R. MD; Way, Lawrence W. MD*

Scientific Papers of the American Surgical Association

Background Seven years ago, the authors reported on the feasibility and short-term results of minimally invasive surgical methods to treat esophageal achalasia. In this report, they describe the evolution of the surgical technique and the clinical results in a large group of patients with long follow-up.

Patients and Methods Between January 1991 and October 1998, 168 patients (96 men, 72 women; mean age 45 years, median duration of symptoms 48 months), who fulfilled the clinical, radiographic, endoscopic, and manometric criteria for a diagnosis of achalasia, underwent esophagomyotomy by minimally invasive techniques. Forty-eight patients had marked esophageal dilatation (diameter >6.0 cm). Thirty-five patients had a left thoracoscopic myotomy, and 133 patients had a laparoscopic myotomy plus a partial fundoplication. Follow-up to October 1998 was complete in 145 patients (86%).

Results Median hospital stay was 72 hours for the thoracoscopic group and 48 hours for the laparoscopic group. Eight patients required a second operation for recurrent or persistent dysphagia, and two patients required an esophagectomy. There were no deaths. Good or excellent relief of dysphagia was obtained in 90% of patients (85% after thoracoscopic and 93% after laparoscopic myotomy). Gastroesophageal reflux developed in 60% of tested patients after thoracoscopic myotomy and in 17% after laparoscopic myotomy plus fundoplication. Laparoscopic myotomy plus fundoplication corrected reflux present before surgery in five of seven patients. Patients with a dilated esophagus had excellent relief of dysphagia after laparoscopic myotomy; none required an esophagectomy.

Conclusions Minimally invasive techniques provided effective and long-lasting relief of dysphagia in patients with achalasia. The authors prefer the laparoscopic approach for three reasons: it more effectively relieved dysphagia, it was associated with a shorter hospital stay, and it was associated with less postoperative reflux. Laparoscopic Heller myotomy and partial fundoplication should be considered the primary treatment for esophageal achalasia.

From the Departments of Surgery at the *University of California, San Francisco, California, and the †University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Correspondence: Marco G. Patti, MD, Dept. of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, 533 Parnassus Ave., Room U-122, San Francisco, CA 94143-0788.

Presented at the 119th Annual Meeting of the American Surgical Association, April 15–17, 1999, Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Diego, California.

Accepted for publication April 1999.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.