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Laparoscopic Heller's Myotomy: Revolutionizing the Treatment of Achalasia
General / May 21st, 2023 12:44 pm     A+ | a-

This video is about achalasia, a rare esophageal motility disorder characterized by impaired peristalsis and the inability of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax properly. This condition often leads to symptoms such as dysphagia, regurgitation, chest pain, and weight loss. Over the years, various treatment options have been developed to manage achalasia, including medication, pneumatic dilation, and surgical intervention. One surgical procedure that has revolutionized the treatment of achalasia is laparoscopic Heller's myotomy.

Understanding Achalasia:

Achalasia occurs when the nerves in the esophagus degenerate, leading to the loss of coordination between the muscles responsible for pushing food down the esophagus (peristalsis) and the relaxation of the LES. This results in the incomplete opening of the LES and impaired passage of food into the stomach.

Traditional Treatment Approaches:

Historically, treatment options for achalasia consisted of pharmacological approaches, such as calcium channel blockers and nitrates, which aimed to relax the LES. While these methods provided temporary relief, they did not address the underlying cause of the disorder. Pneumatic dilation, another traditional treatment, involved stretching the LES using an inflatable balloon, but its effectiveness varied among patients and had a risk of complications.

The Emergence of Laparoscopic Heller's Myotomy:

Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy was first introduced in the 1990s as a minimally invasive surgical procedure for achalasia. It involves dividing the muscle fibers of the LES and extending the incision into the distal esophagus to disrupt the dysfunctional muscular barrier causing the obstruction. This surgical intervention aims to improve esophageal emptying by facilitating the passage of food into the stomach.

Advantages of Laparoscopic Heller's Myotomy:

    a. Minimally invasive: Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy offers the advantage of being a minimally invasive procedure, utilizing small incisions and a laparoscope. This results in reduced postoperative pain, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery compared to traditional open surgery.

    b. High success rates: Studies have shown that laparoscopic Heller's myotomy achieves excellent long-term outcomes with significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. The success rates are reported to be as high as 90%, making it the gold standard surgical treatment for achalasia.

    c. Lower risk of complications: Compared to open surgery, laparoscopic Heller's myotomy has a lower risk of complications such as wound infections, bleeding, and hernias. The precise visualization provided by the laparoscope allows for better identification and preservation of surrounding structures, reducing the risk of iatrogenic injury.

Postoperative Management and Follow-up:

Following laparoscopic Heller's myotomy, patients usually require a liquid or soft diet for a few weeks to allow for proper healing. Regular follow-up visits are essential to monitor the patient's progress and ensure that symptoms do not recur or worsen over time. Occasionally, patients may experience gastroesophageal reflux after myotomy, necessitating the use of acid-reducing medications or additional interventions such as fundoplication.

Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy has revolutionized the treatment of achalasia by offering a minimally invasive surgical option with high success rates and reduced risk of complications. This procedure has significantly improved the quality of life for countless achalasia patients, restoring their ability to eat and swallow comfortably. As medical technology continues to advance, laparoscopic Heller's myotomy remains a cornerstone in the management of achalasia,

Performing Laparoscopic Heller's Myotomy: A Step-by-Step Guide


Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat achalasia, a condition characterized by impaired esophageal motility. This step-by-step guide aims to provide an overview of the surgical technique involved in performing a laparoscopic Heller's myotomy.

Step 1: Preoperative Preparation

1.1 Patient Positioning: Place the patient in the supine position under general anesthesia.
1.2 Trocar Placement: Establish pneumoperitoneum by inserting a Veress needle or using a Hasson technique. Place the trocars for the laparoscope and working instruments, including a liver retractor if necessary.

Step 2: Exposure and Mobilization

2.1 Identification of Structures: Identify key anatomical landmarks, including the liver, gastroesophageal junction (GEJ), and the LES.
2.2 Dissection of the Hepatogastric Ligament: Begin by dissecting the hepatogastric ligament to expose the left and right crura of the diaphragm and the distal esophagus.
2.3 Creation of an Esophageal Window: Carefully create a window posterior to the esophagus by bluntly dissecting the tissues to expose the underlying muscular layers.

Step 3: Myotomy

3.1 Initiating the Myotomy: Begin the myotomy by making a small incision in the distal esophagus, just above the GEJ.
3.2 Extended Myotomy: Extend the myotomy for approximately 6-8 cm distally into the gastric cardia, ensuring complete disruption of the LES fibers.
3.3 Division of the Circular Muscle Fibers: Use either blunt or sharp dissection to divide the circular muscle fibers of the LES and the proximal stomach, while carefully preserving the underlying mucosa.
3.4 Confirmation of Adequate Myotomy: Perform intraoperative endoscopy or esophagogram to confirm the adequacy of myotomy and assess for any residual narrowing or obstruction.

Step 4: Additional Procedures (if necessary)

4.1 Anterior Fundoplication: In cases where gastroesophageal reflux is a concern, perform an anterior partial fundoplication (Dor fundoplication) to help prevent postoperative reflux.
4.2 Collis Gastroplasty: If the patient has a shortened esophagus or a significant hiatal hernia, consider performing a Collis gastroplasty to lengthen the esophagus and create an adequate intra-abdominal esophageal length.

Step 5: Closure and Postoperative Care

5.1 Closure of Incisions: Close the incisions using appropriate sutures or staples, ensuring hemostasis and proper wound closure.
5.2 Postoperative Care: Provide postoperative care, including pain management, early mobilization, and gradual reintroduction of oral intake under the guidance of a specialized dietitian.
5.3 Follow-up and Surveillance: Schedule regular follow-up visits to monitor the patient's progress, evaluate symptom relief, and address any concerns or complications that may arise.

Performing laparoscopic Heller's myotomy requires a thorough understanding of the anatomical structures involved and precise surgical technique. This step-by-step guide provides a general overview of the surgical procedure involved in a laparoscopic Heller's myotomy. However, it is essential to note that each surgical case may have variations and complexities that necessitate individualized approaches. Surgeons should adhere to established guidelines, rely on their expertise, and prioritize patient safety and optimal outcomes throughout the surgical process.

Advantages of Heller's Myotomy for Achalasia

Heller's myotomy is a surgical procedure commonly performed to treat achalasia, a disorder characterized by impaired esophageal motility. This procedure offers several advantages over other treatment options, making it a preferred choice for many patients. Let's explore the advantages of Heller's myotomy in greater detail:

High Success Rates: Heller's myotomy has consistently demonstrated high success rates in alleviating symptoms associated with achalasia. The procedure involves the surgical division of the muscular fibers of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows for improved passage of food and liquids into the stomach. Studies have reported success rates exceeding 90%, leading to significant symptom relief and improved quality of life for patients.

Minimally Invasive Approach: Heller's myotomy is often performed using a minimally invasive technique known as laparoscopy. This approach involves making small incisions and utilizing a laparoscope and specialized instruments to perform the procedure. Minimally invasive surgery offers several advantages over open surgery, including reduced postoperative pain, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, and improved cosmetic outcomes due to smaller incisions.

Preservation of the Esophagus: Unlike some alternative treatments for achalasia, such as esophagectomy or endoscopic interventions like pneumatic dilation, Heller's myotomy preserves the natural esophagus. By selectively dividing the LES muscle fibers, the procedure aims to improve esophageal function without removing or altering the esophageal anatomy. Preserving the esophagus helps maintain its natural capabilities and avoids potential complications associated with more invasive interventions.

Low Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): One concern when performing myotomy is the potential development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) due to the disruption of the LES. However, studies have shown that the risk of postoperative GERD after Heller's myotomy is relatively low. In cases where reflux is a concern, an additional procedure called anterior fundoplication can be performed simultaneously to create an anti-reflux barrier, further reducing the risk of postoperative reflux.

Long-term Durability: Heller's myotomy has demonstrated long-term durability in symptom relief for achalasia patients. Studies with long-term follow-up have shown that the beneficial effects of the procedure persist for many years, reducing the need for additional interventions or retreatment. This long-term durability is a crucial factor in enhancing the overall quality of life for achalasia patients, providing them with sustained relief from symptoms.

Ability to Customize Surgical Approach: Heller's myotomy allows for individualized treatment based on the patient's specific needs. The extent of myotomy can be tailored to each patient, depending on the severity of their achalasia and associated factors. Surgeons can adjust the length and location of the myotomy to achieve optimal results while minimizing the risk of complications. This customization ensures that the procedure is tailored to the patient's unique anatomical and physiological characteristics, enhancing the overall efficacy of the surgery.

Heller's myotomy offers several advantages as a treatment option for achalasia. With its high success rates, minimally invasive approach, preservation of the esophagus, low risk of GERD, long-term durability, and ability to customize the surgical approach, Heller's myotomy has emerged as a gold standard procedure in the management of achalasia. These advantages collectively contribute to significant symptom relief, improved quality of life, and long-term patient satisfaction.

Complications of Laparoscopic Heller's Myotomy

Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy is a generally safe and effective surgical procedure used to treat achalasia. However, like any surgical intervention, there are potential risks and complications associated with the procedure. It is important for both patients and healthcare providers to be aware of these potential complications. Here are some of the complications that can occur:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): One of the potential complications following Heller's myotomy is the development or exacerbation of GERD. The procedure involves division of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle, which can lead to a relaxation of the LES and subsequent reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. Patients who already have underlying GERD or a weak LES may be at a higher risk for postoperative reflux symptoms. In some cases, additional surgical interventions or medication may be necessary to manage GERD symptoms.

Perforation: During the myotomy procedure, there is a risk of inadvertent perforation or injury to the esophageal wall or other nearby structures. Although this risk is generally low, it is a potential complication that can lead to postoperative complications such as infection, mediastinitis (inflammation of the mediastinum), or the formation of a fistula (abnormal connection) between the esophagus and adjacent structures. Immediate recognition and repair of any perforation is crucial to minimize the risk of complications.

Bleeding: Like any surgical procedure, there is a risk of bleeding during or after laparoscopic Heller's myotomy. The blood vessels around the esophagus and LES can be accidentally injured during dissection or myotomy. In most cases, bleeding can be managed intraoperatively or postoperatively with hemostatic measures or blood transfusions if necessary. Severe bleeding requiring further intervention or reoperation is rare but can occur.

Infection: Although infection is relatively rare, it is a potential complication following any surgical procedure, including laparoscopic Heller's myotomy. Surgical site infections or deep infections, such as mediastinitis or abscess formation, may occur. Strict adherence to sterile techniques, appropriate prophylactic antibiotics, and careful wound care can help reduce the risk of infection.

Dysphagia: Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a common symptom of achalasia and the primary indication for Heller's myotomy. However, some patients may experience transient or persistent dysphagia following the surgery. This can occur due to excessive myotomy, scarring, or narrowing of the esophagus. In most cases, postoperative dysphagia improves over time, but occasionally, additional interventions may be necessary to manage this complication.

Gas Bloat Syndrome: Following Heller's myotomy, some patients may experience a condition known as gas bloat syndrome. This occurs when excessive air or gas becomes trapped in the stomach, leading to feelings of bloating, discomfort, and difficulty belching. While this complication is generally temporary and self-limiting, it can cause discomfort and affect the patient's quality of life. Dietary modifications and symptomatic management strategies may be employed to alleviate the symptoms of gas bloat syndrome.

It is important to note that while these complications can occur, they are relatively uncommon in experienced hands and with appropriate patient selection. Surgeons who perform Heller's myotomy have undergone specialized training and possess the necessary skills to minimize the risk of complications and manage them effectively if they do arise.


Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy is a safe and effective surgical procedure for the treatment of achalasia. While complications can occur, they are relatively rare, and most can be managed with appropriate recognition and intervention. It is important for patients and healthcare providers to have open communication and follow-up care to monitor for any potential complications. With proper patient selection, adherence to surgical techniques, and vigilant postoperative care, the benefits of laparoscopic Heller's myotomy in improving achalasia symptoms and quality of life far outweigh the risks associated with potential complications. Patients should discuss any concerns or questions they have about the procedure, including potential complications, with their healthcare team to ensure a thorough understanding of the risks and benefits.
Dr. Tanuj Sharma
Sep 12th, 2023 4:04 am
This video offers a concise yet comprehensive overview of achalasia, shedding light on this rare esophageal disorder's complexities. It effectively communicates the hallmark symptoms, emphasizing the significant impact on patients' lives. The discussion of treatment options, including medication, pneumatic dilation, and the revolutionary laparoscopic Heller's myotomy, is informative and well-structured. However, it would have been beneficial to delve deeper into the specific advantages and potential risks associated with each treatment modality.
Dr. Manish Rana
Oct 28th, 2023 5:44 am
This video sheds light on achalasia, a rare esophageal disorder causing dysphagia, regurgitation, chest pain, and weight loss due to impaired peristalsis and LES dysfunction. Among treatment options, laparoscopic Heller's myotomy stands out as a revolutionary surgical solution for this challenging condition.
Dr. Jatin Parmar
Nov 11th, 2023 5:11 am
This video illuminates achalasia, a rare esophageal motility disorder causing dysphagia, regurgitation, chest pain, and weight loss. Various treatments, including medication and pneumatic dilation, exist. Laparoscopic Heller's myotomy stands out, revolutionizing achalasia treatment.

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