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Can J Gastroenterol. 2005 Oct;19(10):619-23.

Has the introduction of laparoscopic Heller myotomy altered the treatment paradigm of achalasia?

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Division of General Surgery, and Steinberg-Bernstein Centre of Minimally Invasive Surgery, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1A4, Canada.


Although surgical myotomy is well established as the most effective and durable treatment for achalasia, wide acceptance of this procedure as a first-line treatment has been hampered by perceived invasiveness and morbidity. Laparoscopic myotomy has significantly reduced surgical trauma and morbidity while maintaining effectiveness. The effect of laparoscopic myotomy on the treatment pattern for achalasia is not currently known. All patients undergoing surgical myotomy in Quebec from 1997 to 2002 were identified from the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec billing database; previous endoscopic treatment was documented from 1990 to the time of surgery. Patients were divided into two groups (prelaparoscopy and postlaparoscopy) defined by the approximate date when laparoscopic myotomy became generally available in Quebec. A questionnaire examining treatment preference for achalasia was sent to all Quebec gastroenterologists. The number of myotomies performed in Quebec remained stable (prelaparoscopy = 28.7/year; postlaparoscopy = 33/year), but were performed on an older population. The rate of preoperative endoscopic treatment did not differ from prelaparoscopy (29.2%) to postlaparoscopy (23.3%). However, the time interval between the last endoscopy and myotomy diminished significantly. Questionnaire response rate was 41% (60 of 147). Although myotomy was recognized as the most effective treatment (54 of 60), only 22 of 60 gastroenterologists would refer a healthy patient for myotomy as initial treatment. Other choices included dilation (33 of 60), Botulinum toxin (two of 60) or calcium channel blockade (three of 60). Despite a decrease in time interval between endoscopic treatment and surgery, no decrease in the rate of existing endoscopic therapies occurred after laparoscopic myotomy became widely available. The benefits and minimal risks associated with laparoscopic myotomy need to be more effectively communicated by referring physicians.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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