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West Penn Allegheny Health System is First in Pennsylvania to Perform Groundbreaking Minimally-Invasive Procedure for Swallowing Disorder
Date:5/9/2013

Pittsburgh, PA (PRWEB) May 09, 2013

A multidisciplinary team of physicians and nurses from West Penn Allegheny Health System’s(WPAHS) Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease is the first in Pennsylvania to offer per-oral endoscopic myotomy (POEM), an innovative, minimally-invasive surgical approach to treat the swallowing disorder called achalasia.

Achalasia is a problem that affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach. Some symptoms include regurgitation of food and difficulty swallowing. The condition is caused by a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When the LES fails to relax, patients have difficulty moving food past the muscle and into the stomach. In addition, the esophageal muscle fails to squeeze in a coordinated and effective fashion, thereby compounding the symptoms of obstruction.

“These patients can’t eat well- their food tends to get stuck in the esophagus,” said Abhijit Kulkarni, MD, director of the gastroenterology lab at Allegheny General Hospital and a leader within the newly created Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease.

Medications exist to treat achalasia and physicians have used balloons to stretch the LES, but neither of those methods tends to yield good long-term results, Dr. Kulkarni said.

In one of the most successful surgical treatments for achalasia, Heller myotomy, the outer layer of the LES and esophageal muscle are cut so that the obstruction is relieved and food can move through the esophagus and into the stomach. Heller myotomy was first performed via open surgery through the chest or abdomen and has more recently been done through four to five small incisions in the abdomen.

POEM enables physicians to effectively tr
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