Achalasia Treatment

Heller myotomy is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to treat achalasia, a disease of the muscle of the esophagus (the swallowing tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). Achalasia makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into the stomach from the esophagus.

Experience with Heller Myotomy

Surgery often provides the best chance for long-term improvement for patients with achalasia.

If you are considering surgery for your achalasia, it’s important to find a surgeon you can trust and who has significant experience with this procedure. That’s why, during your first appointment, we’ll review your specific concerns and talk with you about your treatment options. UVA's GI surgeons have extensive experience with this minimally invasive procedure and our results have been excellent.

Is Esophageal Surgery Right for You?

Most people with achalasia will benefit from surgery and we recommend that all appropriate patients with achalasia have surgery to improve their swallowing.

How Heller Myotomy Works

This procedure can usually be done using minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery). Using small incisions, we use a camera and specialized instruments to cut the lower esophageal sphincter (muscle between the esophagus and stomach), which improves a patient’s ability to swallow.

The majority of our procedures involve laparoscopic surgery because patients have less pain and return to normal activity and work faster. The typical hospital stay after a Heller myotomy procedure is 1-2 days.

About 15 percent of patients experience gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (acid reflux) after this surgery.

Other Achalasia Treatments

We also offer:

  • Pneumatic dilation — uses a balloon to stretch the lower esophageal sphincter
  • Peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) — a minimally-invasive procedure that uses an endoscope to access the esophageal muscle through the mouth, cut the lower esophageal sphincter and the nearby dysfunctional muscle
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections into the sphincter
  • Laparoscopic surgery to cut the lower esophageal sphincter, often followed by a procedure to prevent reflux, a common side effect of myotomy

These treatments reduce pressure within the lower esophagus and across the esophageal sphincter to allow easier passage of food from the esophagus into the stomach.