WVU Medicine performed the first POEM procedure in the state of West Virginia.

The POEM is an incisionless procedure performed by an endoscope (a thin flexible tube) which is passed through the patient’s mouth into the esophagus. Using a blade on the end of the scope, an incision is made in the lining (mucosa) of the inside of the esophagus and the scope is passed through into the space created between this mucosal layer and the muscular layers of the esophagus. The surgeon cuts away some of the muscles that encircle the esophagus, lower esophageal sphincter and stomach, relaxing the pressure on the esophagus and allowing food to pass into the stomach with less resistance. The small incision is closed using endoscopic clips, and the endoscope is withdrawn from the patient.

The POEM procedure is done to treat the following disease:

  • Achalasia
  • Spastic esophageal disorders not responding to medical therapies (e.g., diffuse esophageal spam, nutcracker esophagus)

Achalasia

Achalasia is a disorder that affects your esophagus. This is the swallowing tube that connects the back of your throat to your stomach. If you have achalasia, your esophagus does not sufficiently push food or liquid into your stomach. In addition, the ring of muscle that circles the lower portion of your esophagus does not relax enough to let food and liquid pass through easily. In fact, achalasia means “failure to relax.”

Achalasia usually develops slowly, making it harder for you to swallow food and beverages. It’s caused by loss of the nerve cells that control the swallowing muscles in the esophagus. Why these nerve cells degenerate, however, isn’t known. Although achalasia has no cure, symptoms can be controlled with treatment. In rare situations, achalasia results from a tumor.

Symptoms

Symptoms of achalasia develop gradually. As the esophagus becomes wider and weaker, you may have these symptoms:

  • Difficulty swallowing food, a condition called dysphagia
  • Food or liquid flowing back up into your throat, or regurgitation
  • Waking up at night from coughing or choking because of regurgitation
  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Difficulty burping or hiccups
  • Weight loss

Contact Us

If  you are experiencing symptoms of Achalasia, talk to your primary care provider or call (855) WVU-CARE for an appointment.