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Thoracic Surgery — Esophagus conditions and treatments

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) — Occurs when stomach contents (including acid) back up (reflux) into the esophagus. GERD may be due to problems with a valve between the stomach and esophagus. Surgery may be indicated for GERD if medications and other treatments don’t work. Surgeons wrap a portion of the stomach around the esophagus to create a new valve-type structure, and fix any other problems that might be contributing to GERD.

Achalasia — A disorder in which there are no muscular contractions in the lower half of the esophagus to help move food and liquids through the esophagus and into the stomach. The valve at the bottom of the esophagus also fails, so food cannot enter the stomach. Surgeons cut the muscles of the valve between the esophagus and stomach, allowing food to pass through.

Esophageal cancer — Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer and may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. For patients whose cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, surgeons may remove the majority of the esophagus. HOCC thoracic surgeons can perform a minimally invasive esophagogastrectomy (MIE), using several tiny incisions vs. two longer ones to remove a cancerous esophagus and reposition the stomach to form a new esophagus. Compared to traditional surgery, inpatient hospital stay with the MIE approach is seven to 10 days vs. 10 to 14 days, and recovery two to four weeks vs. up to two to four months.

Hiatal hernias — This condition can occur when a part of the stomach pushes upward through the hiatus in the diaphragm. The hiatus is the small opening that allows the esophagus to connect to the stomach. A large hiatal hernia can cause food and acid to back up into the esophagus, leading to heartburn and chest pain, and can require surgery.