Peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) has recently been described in humans as a treatment for achalasia. This concept has evolved from developments in natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) and has the potential to become an important therapeutic option. We describe our approach as well as our initial clinical experience as part of an ongoing study treating achalasia patients with POEM.
Five patients (mean age 64 ± 11 years) with esophageal motility disorders were enrolled in an IRB-approved study and underwent POEM. This completely endoscopic procedure involved a midesophageal mucosal incision, a submucosal tunnel onto the gastric cardia, and selective division of the circular and sling fibers at the lower esophageal sphincter. The mucosal entry was closed by conventional hemostatic clips. All patients had postoperative esophagograms before discharge and initial clinical follow-up 2 weeks postoperatively.
All (5 of 5) patients successfully underwent POEM treatment, and the myotomy had a median length of 7 cm (range 6 to 12 cm). After the procedure, smooth passage of the endoscope through the gastroesophageal junction was observed in all patients. Operative time ranged from 120 to 240 minutes. No leaks were detected in the swallow studies and mean length of stay was 1.2 ± 0.4 days. No clinical complications were observed, and at the initial follow-up, all patients reported dysphagia relief without reflux symptoms.
Our initial experience with the POEM procedure demonstrates its operative safety, and early clinical results have shown good results. Although further evaluation and long-term data are mandatory, POEM could become the treatment of choice for symptomatic achalasia.