If you suffer from achalasia and are tired of struggling to swallow, then it could be time to consider surgery. There are a few different procedures ENT surgeons may use to release the esophageal sphincter muscles and restore your ability to swallow. One of the most common of these is the Heller myotomy. Here is what you can expect if your ENT surgeon chooses this approach for you.
You'll be put under general anesthesia.
A Heller myotomy is performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be completely asleep and unaware during the procedure. Usually, the surgery is done in the hospital so that your ENT surgeon can collaborate with an anesthesiologist and other practitioners in your care. To avoid side effects and reduce the risk of anesthesia, you will need to fast for at least 12 hours before surgery, and you may need to stop taking blood-thinning medications per the instructions of your doctor.
The procedure will be done laparoscopically.
This procedure is performed through a small incision made in the center of your abdomen. Inert gas will be pumped in through this incision, creating space around the organs so your surgeon can maneuver their tools as needed. Once the surgical tools are in place near the esophagus, your surgeon will use them to cut away extra muscle around the esophagus. This will allow the esophagus to open as it should, allowing food to pass into the stomach more easily when you swallow.
You'll stay in the hospital for a day or two.
While a Heller myotomy is a pretty routine surgery, there are some risks, including the risk of postoperative infection and the risk of nausea. To help protect against these risks, most patients are asked to spend at least one night in the hospital after their surgery. This way, if any issues do arise, the doctors and nurses can address them immediately.
Recovery takes 2 - 4 weeks.
Expect to take about two weeks off from work after your Heller myotomy. After two weeks have passed, you can resume most activities aside from intense physical activity. Most patients are fully recovered by the time four weeks have passed. Your surgeon will have you come in for regular visits so they can monitor your progress and tell you exactly when it is safe to return to specific activities.
Now that you know a little more about Heller myotomies, you can feel confident and assured if your ENT recommends this procedure for you. This is a great option for patients who struggle to swallow due to esophageal narrowing and stiffness.