Achalasia

Achalasia refers to the most common motility disorder of the esophagus.

People with the disorder find it difficult to swallow anything — solids or liquids — because the smooth muscle layer of the esophagus loses the ability to move food and liquids. Also, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to relax in response to swallowing.

Tests for Diagnosing Achalasia

People suffering from achalasia undergo a detailed preoperative evaluation to determine the underlying cause of the condition.

Doctors use a number of tests for this purpose:

  • Barium esophagography — provides an anatomic roadmap for evaluation of the motility disorder.
  • Upper endoscopy — examines the esophageal mucosa and helps identify conditions that may mimic achalasia.
  • Esophageal manometry — studies the pressure inside the esophagus.

Treating Achalasia

The standard treatment for achalasia involves a minimally invasive surgical procedure called the Heller myotomy.

In a Heller myotomy, the surgeon makes small incisions in the external muscular tissues of the lower esophagus and stomach. The incisions reduce pressure, enabling food to pass more easily through the lower esophageal sphincter downward to the stomach.

You can return home as early as one to two days after surgery.

Contact Us

Contact the UPMC Esophageal and Lung Surgery Institute with questions or for more information.

Thoracic and Foregut Surgery Division: 412-647-7555

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