UIHC offers rare incision-free treatment for achalasia - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UIHC offers rare incision-free treatment for achalasia

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is the first and only hospital in the state to adopt an incision-free procedure for those with achalasia.

It's a relatively rare disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into your stomach.

It was about a year and a half ago when Greg Deutmeyer started having significant problems, preventing food from entering the stomach.

"I've been having heartburns for years, all my life and it progressively got worse," says Deutmeyer. "I could sit at the table and have a meal with my family and they'd be done and I couldn't get it though, I'd have to stop and wait for everything to pass through."

Eventually, doctors diagnosed him with achalasia.

UIHC cardiothoracic surgeon John Keech says patients who have achalasia often complain of regurgitation, pain and difficulty swallowing, and the condition can also lead to unintentional weight loss.

Deutmeyer says doctors could see the bottom of his esophagus, having what doctors call a bird's beak.

That's when they told him he was a good candidate for the per-oral endoscopic myotomy procedure (POEM).

POEM is a fairly new procedure at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

UIHC Gastroenterologist Henning Gerke says providing this incision-free treatment gives their patients an even less invasive alternative to traditional surgery.

"It's without incision and achieves that same in the esophagus as the traditional surgery, but it does it from the inside out rather than the outside in," says Gerke.

The incision-free treatment uses a small tube with a light and video camera attached that enters the patient's mouth.

Doctors then make a small slit in the lining of the esophagus to divide the muscle that restricts food passage.

Gerke says POEM gives physicians a very high degree of control, preventing the risk of damaging other structures around the esophagus.

Deutmeyer is one of four people to get POEM procedure at the hospital.

He got it January 15 and says he has no problem eating now.

"You could feel the muscles in your esophagus were kind of sore for the first few weeks, but once you got past that, it's been fine and you don't even notice it's there," says Deutmeyer.

Doctors at UIHC performed the first procedure November 2013.

They say the results are great and there are several others waiting to get the procedure.

However, the long-term effects are still being conducted.

The hospital is just one of 22 in the country to offer the POEM procedure. 

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