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Thoracic Surgery

To schedule an appointment, please call 847.570.1700.

Heller Myotomy

Heller Myotomy is a surgical procedure used to treat achalasia, a severe swallowing disorder. An esophageal motility problem, this condition results from the inability of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to properly function as an open and close valve. Heller Myotomy involves cutting the muscle fibers restricting the LES’ ability to open, which then allows food to enter the stomach.

Today’s advances in the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques have made laparoscopic Heller Myotomy the standard of care for patients with achalasia. Laparoscopic surgery offers several advantages to traditional open Heller Myotomy surgery, including less pain, faster recovery and a quicker return to normal activities. Through several small incisions made in the abdomen, NorthShore surgeons gain access to the LES using pencil thin instruments. These delicate, high tech surgical tools include a small light and camera (laparoscope) as well as tissue or organ cutting and removal devices including lasers.

Preparing for Laparoscopic Heller Myotomy

You will need to be seen by your primary care physician prior to undergoing laparoscopic Heller Myotomy. 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 laparoscopic surgery.

What to Expect

Laparoscopic Heller Myotomy is performed under general anesthesia and typically requires a 1 to 2 night hospital stay. 48 hours prior to surgery, you will need to follow a clear liquid diet.

After the procedure, your pain will 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 1 ½ to 2 hours. Absorbable sutures will be used to close the small incisions in your abdomen. After your discharge from the hospital, we recommend a few weeks of home recovery before resuming normal activities. Follow-up appointments are made 3 and then 9 weeks after the procedure.

For More Information

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