Laparoscopic Heller esophageal myotomy improves esophageal clearance and symptoms of achalasia in the early and late postoperative periods.
We followed up 98 consecutive patients attending a referral center between February 1, 1994, and July 1, 2000, who underwent laparoscopic myotomy. Operative time, complications, and length of stay were recorded. Postoperative outcomes were assessed using Van Trappen symptom scores (1 indicates no symptoms; 2, symptoms occurring less than once a week; 3, symptoms occurring more than once weekly; and 4, persistent symptoms) and scintigraphic esophageal transit studies.
Of 98 patients, 91 underwent anterior fundoplication. There were no open conversions and 1 mucosal perforation, which was closed laparoscopically without complications. Mean operative times and postoperative days were 3.2 hours and 4.3 days, respectively, in the first 32 patients and 1.7 hours and 2.3 days, respectively, in the last 32 patients (P<.001). Postoperative complications included pneumothorax (4% of patients), atelectasis (5%), and delayed gastric emptying (1%). Seventy-five percent of patients gained weight after surgery. At longest follow-up, 91% of patients were satisfied with the outcome of the procedure. Mean Van Trappen scores for dysphagia improved from 4.0 in the preoperative period to 1.2 at early and late follow-up (P<.001). Fluid retention at 10 minutes in the upright position was 47% in the preoperative period and improved at early and late follow-up to 21% and 20%, respectively (P<.001).
Laparoscopic Heller myotomy can safely reverse the symptoms of achalasia and improve esophageal transit. These benefits, realized during the early postoperative period, were maintained at longest follow-up.