According to a story from the Clarion Ledger, surgeons at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are now trained to conduct a minimally invasive procedure to relieve the symptoms of achalasia. The new procedure, called peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM), is a significant advancement over previous surgical solutions to the condition.
Achalasia is a disorder in which the fibers of smooth muscle are unable to relax. This causes a sphincter to keep from opening when it would typically need to. While achalasia can occur at almost any point along the digestive tract, the term usually refers to esophageal achalasia. The disorder prevents food from moving down the esophagus and into the stomach. Chest pain, problems with swallowing, and regurgitation are common symptoms. People that cannot keep down food may lose weight and become malnourished and dehydrated. Achalasia can occur as a symptom of other medical problems, such as esophageal cancer, Triple-A syndrome, or Chagas disease. While there are no complete cures for achalasia, there are several treatment options available, such as esophageal dilation and or surgery, which involves a lengthwise cutting of the tensed muscle. To learn more about achalasia, click here.
The POEM procedure was first developed and trialled in Japan in 2008. In the procedure, an endoscope is inserted in the esophagus and is used to separate the muscles at the end of the esophagus to allow food to pass. This process is similar in effectiveness to surgical solutions such as Heller myotomy, but it does not require the skin to be cut, which results in a less invasive solution with lower risk of postoperative complications. POEM has been growing in popularity since its introduction and is steadily becoming the first-line treatment for achalasia.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) is the first and only medical facility in the state to offer the procedure. Audra Odom, 46, was one of the first Mississippians to benefit from the new procedure. Because of the rarity of achalasia, it took month before doctors were able to get her diagnosed. Thankfully, she can now it far better than before, though it took about a month before she could eat whatever she wanted. Audra also has to eat slowly, and in small servings, but it is far better than the constant regurgitation that she was suffering before. Hopefully, POEM can begin to help many more people like Audra, who just want to be able to eat again.