Moves in Medicine: POEM treatment procedure for Achalasia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A very simple act that we do day in and day out to stay alive was literally choking one Northeast Philadelphia woman. But she says a procedure done at Temple Health changed her life.

Laura Conners can finally eat normally. She says for the past several years, food has been her enemy.

"I couldn't eat. I was choking, but I didn't feel like I was choking where I couldn't get air. I just choked up the food. I mean it's scary because you think you're going to choke to death," she said.

Laura was suffering from Achalasia.

"The muscles in the esophagus stop squeezing, except for the muscle at the very bottom of the esophagus that leads into the stomach stays really tight and doesn't relax, so often times nothing gets down from the esophagus into the stomach," said Dr. Zubair Malik, Medical Director of the Esophageal Program at Temple Health.

Dr. Malik says Achalasia is rare and there's no known cause for it.

"There's no good ideas as to why people get this, it just happens," he said.

Because of that, Achalasia is also very difficult to diagnose.

"In fact, data shows on average it takes about 8 to 10 years to be diagnosed with Achalasia once patients start presenting with symptoms," said Dr. Roman Petrov , Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at Temple Health.

Laura's relief came in the form of Dr. Petrov and the POEM procedure.

"They cut the muscle from the inside using an endoscope and there's no incisions or anything like that," said Dr. Malik.

"There's is much less pain and the recovery is faster," added Dr. Petrov.

So how is Laura feeling following the procedure?

"I'm doing fabulous," said Laura. "I just trusted Dr. Petrov that he would make it better but I didn't know how much better. But, I mean, I can eat anything."
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