Help for Achalasia: What to Do if You’re Diagnosed (Video)

Newer options available for rare swallowing disorder

Help for Achalasia

Food sustains us, so a diagnosis of achalasia — a rare condition in which the esophagus cannot move food into the stomach — can be overwhelming.

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The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects our throat and stomach. When someone has achalasia, the valve at the lower end of the esophagus – the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) — stays closed during swallowing. This prevents the food and sometimes liquid from entering the stomach, causing it to back up. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, vomiting of undigested food, chest pain, heartburn and weight loss.

Cleveland Clinic thoracic surgeon Siva Raja, MD, PhD, explains that once achalasia is diagnosed, many treatment options are available. The treatments all have one thing in common: They focus on relaxing or forcing open the LES so that food and liquid can get to the stomach.


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In this video, Dr. Raja describes various treatments, including: medication; minimally or noninvasive procedures to relax the valve; and surgery. Surgical options include the Heller myotomy, a gold standard approach for the past century that can now be performed with five small incisions.

Dr. Raja and other Cleveland Clinic surgeons also are now performing an innovative surgical technique called POEM (peroral endoscopic myotomy), in which the muscles are cut from inside the esophagus rather than from the outside as with the Heller myotomy.

Download our free treatment guide to learn more.

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