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University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center Offers Novel Scarless Procedure to Treat Achalasia

UH Cleveland Medical Center is one of five institutions nationwide performing a novel scarless procedure that restores swallowing function in some patients with achalasia, a rare condition where the esophagus is unable to move food into the stomach.

Per-oral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) is a state-of-the-art technique to treat patients without any external incisions or outside scars. With POEM, surgeons enter through the mouth and tunnel an endoscope down the esophagus to cut the muscle fibers to open the esophagus, allowing food to enter the stomach.

The POEM procedure provides a more minimally invasive approach to achalasia that will help patients recover more quickly. This leading-edge surgery is the way of the future.

While the scarless procedure is being pioneered in patients with achalasia, this approach has potential applications for multiple other gastrointestinal diseases. Tunneling techniques like those used in POEM are developing rapidly as surgeons see that they are well-tolerated by the body.

More than 3,000 people are diagnosed with achalasia each year. The most common symptom is difficulty swallowing. Because patients have trouble eating and drinking, achalasia can lead to unintentional weight loss and malnutrition.

Benefits of POEM Over Traditional Procedures

POEM provides a number of benefits over traditional treatment methods, including:

  • Faster patient recovery
  • Ability to avoid abdominal surgery and outside scarring
  • Potential reduced risk of reflux problems
  • Decreased chance of disrupting other tissues
  • Greater surgical precision

The POEM procedure is a particularly beneficial approach for patients who would be more of a challenge to treat surgically because of prior esophageal or stomach operations or for patients who are morbidly obese.