Epworth introduces rare surgical technique

Epworth is now one of the only centres in Australia to offer patients a new technique for treating achalasia, an uncommon condition resulting in swallowing difficulties due to a non-functioning oesophageal muscle.Treatment is aimed at improving swallowing by dividing the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle. This is commonly done laparoscopically (with key hole surgery), allowing food to pass more freely into the stomach.

The new Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) technique allows the same operation to be done using a conventional gastroscope, thereby avoiding incisions.

So far a small number of POEM procedures have been performed at Epworth Richmond with excellent results by Mr Gary Crosthwaite, Director of the Clinical Institute of General Surgery and Gastroenterology, who undertook training for the technique in both the United States and Germany.

“This is an exciting new development in the treatment of achalasia, which allows an even more non-invasive way of treating this condition than we had previously,” Mr Crosthwait said.

“Treatment has progressed from open surgery where the recovery was lengthy to laparoscopic surgery which reduced pain and shortened recovery to a procedure that has no incisions at all.”

“Preliminary procedures around the world have been shown to be very safe and effective in allowing patients much better or even normal swallowing.

Epworth has been important in encouraging development of innovative techniques across many disciplines to bring world leading treatment to patients,” Mr Crosthwaite said.