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Achalasia is a disorder that affects the esophagus. It is the second most common swallowing condition after gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Muscles at the end of the esophagus that normally allow food and fluids to enter your stomach stop functioning properly. The resulting symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, heartburn and chest pain, which can significantly affect your quality of life. Treatment options include medication or surgery.

Achalasia: What you need to know

  • The problem begins when the lower esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscle between the lower esophagus and the stomach) does not open to allow food or fluids pass into the stomach.
  • As a result, patients with achalasia have difficulty swallowing.
  • Left untreated, achalasia may cause the esophagus to become enlarged and eventually stop functioning. Patients with untreated achalasia are also at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer.
  • Causes of achalasia are not well understood; however, it is seen primarily in young women and middle-aged men and women.

Achalasia: Symptoms

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Chest pain that may worsen after eating
  • Unintended weight loss

Achalasia: Our expertise

Comprehensive and personal care

Our highly trained specialists believe in patient-centered care. They will listen to your concerns and work with you to find the treatment that will relieve your symptoms and restore your normal eating habits and strength.

Nonsurgical treatment options

Your team of experts will work with you to create a personalized plan to provide you with relief from your symptoms. This may include the use of medications, botulinum toxin injections (Botox) to relax the esophagus muscles or balloon dilation to widen the esophagus.

Surgical treatment options

If your condition requires surgery, our specialists are skilled at using minimally invasive surgical options to treat achalasia. The most common procedure is an esophageal (Heller) myotomy. This may be performed with laparoscopic surgery or robot-assisted surgery.

To perform a Heller myotomy, the surgeon works through several small incisions in the abdomen to make cuts to the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter. The goal is to make just enough cuts to allow food to pass more easily into the stomach without causing acid reflux.

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