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Yale J Biol Med. 1998 Jan-Feb;71(1):23-30.

Achalasia in a sixty-four-year-old man.

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Yale-New Haven Hospital, Connecticut, USA.


Achalasia is an esophageal motility disorder characterized by increased lower esophageal sphincter pressure and absence of peristalsis in the lower esophagus. Patients typically present with complaints of progressive difficulty swallowing over a period of several years. Diagnosis is confirmed by esophageal manometry. Complications of achalasia include esophagitis, aspiration and possibly an increased risk of esophageal carcinoma. Medical treatment options include pneumatic dilatation, esophageal bougienage, nitrates, calcium channel blockers and botulinum toxin injections. The primary method of surgical treatment is the Heller myotomy, in which longitudinal incisions are made in the muscle fibers of the lower esophageal sphincter to reduce sphincter pressure. Frequently, a fundoplication is performed in addition to the myotomy to decrease the likelihood of development of gastroesophageal reflux. In recent years, the Heller myotomy has been performed both thoracoscopically and laparoscopically. An additional development has been the placement of an endoscope in the esophagus to provide transillumination during surgery; intraoperative endoscopy allows improved assessment of the depth of myotomy incisions and reduces the risk of esophageal perforation. The case report below describes a 64-year-old-man with achalasia who presented with persistent dysphagia despite multiple attempts at medical treatment. A laparoscopic Heller myotomy with Toupet fundoplication was performed with subsequent eradication of symptoms. A discussion of the epidemiology, etiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment of achalasia follows the case report.

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