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POEM (Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy) is an innovative new minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of achalasia, a severe swallowing disorder, and other motor disorders of the esophagus. While laparoscopic procedures remain the current standard of care for achalasia, POEM offers an incision-free alternative that features faster recovery, less pain and no scarring. Introduced only in the past several years, POEM is quickly proving to be as effective, if not better, than the traditional laparoscopic approach, Heller Myotomy, for correcting the problems caused by achalasia.

This advanced outpatient procedure involves guiding an endoscope through the mouth and down the esophagus rather than through abdominal incisions. The surgeon then cuts the muscle fibers that prevent the lower esophageal sphincter from opening, which then allows food to enter the stomach.

Early adopters of POEM, NorthShore was among a handful of medical centers in the world to first treat patients with this exciting surgical procedure and is one of only two centers in Illinois currently offering it. Our experienced and specially trained surgeons have pioneered the use of POEM, providing leadership and training to other physician specialists from around the globe on this novel endoscopic technique.

Preparing for POEM

You will need to be seen by your primary care physician prior to undergoing POEM. Your pre-operative clearance will include a discussion of your medical history and a physical exam. You will also be required to undergo several diagnostic tests, including:

These tests will give your surgeon more information about your esophagus and stomach and determine if you are a good candidate for POEM. In some cases, your physician specialist may recommend a Heller Myotomy or other procedure.

What to Expect

An outpatient same-day procedure, POEM is performed under general anesthesia. 48 hours prior to surgery, you will need to follow a clear liquid diet.

After POEM, you may feel some discomfort in your throat and chest from the endoscope. Your pain may be controlled using one of several methods: a pump that delivers pain medicine through your intravenous line at your demand, by a nurse administering medicine through your intravenous line at your request or through oral medicines. 

The entire procedure takes about 45 minutes. You will recover for several hours before being discharged. Typically, no overnight hospital stay is required. You may resume normal work, school or physical activities after a few days of home rest. Follow-up appointments are made 3 and then 9 weeks after the procedure.

For More Information

POEM is available at Evanston and Glenbrook Hospitals. To schedule an appointment with one of our general surgeons, please call 847.570.1700.