Esophageal Surgery

Esophageal Surgery

Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy

Saint Raphael’s is the only hospital in the state that routinely performs esophagectomies using a new, minimally invasive technique that decreases the trauma experienced by the body and thereby eases the process of recovery. The procedure yields the same surgical outcomes as more invasive procedures-i.e., removal of cancerous portions of the esophagus-using the newest technology and smaller incisions. Unlike traditional procedures, the minimally invasive approach results in:

  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss, requiring fewer transfusions
  • Fewer complications during recovery
  • Protection for the immune system, a key to fighting the recurrence and spread of cancer
  • Faster recovery, reducing the hospital stay.

Rather than making large incisions through the patient’s chest and abdomen, a one-inch incision is made in the patient’s neck, at three or four points in the patient’s chest, and at five points in the abdomen. Through one incision, a camera is inserted to guide the surgery. Then, via the other small incisions, the cancerous portion of the esophagus is removed, and the stomach is reformed into a gastric tube, which is extended upward and reconnected with the remaining, noncancerous portion of the esophagus.

Also see:  Other Thoracic Surgical Procedures (e.g. GERD, difficulty swallowing, etc.)

View the presentation of:  “Prevention of Delayed Gastric Emptying Following Esophagectomy,” presented by Jeremiah Martin M.D. at the 45th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons” in San Francisco in 2009:

Click here to play.

Palliative Therapies

When a cancer is not removable, it is sometimes possible to strengthen the patient’s overall health and well being using palliative therapies that make it easier for the patient to eat, sleep and function. Examples of palliative interventions include:

  • Inserting a stent into the esophagus to enable food to pass past a cancerous section into the stomach
  • Using a laser to reduce the size of tumors blocking the airway, or inserting a stent into the trachea to enable a more normal flow of oxygen.

Palliative measures are frequently indicated in the treatment of noncancerous conditions, as well. For example:

  • To relieve constriction of the esophagus caused by a condition called achalasia, in which the surrounding nerves die, surgeons may cut the muscle fibers causing the dilation so that food can pass into the stomach.
  • To control a condition called hyperhydrosis, in which the patient sweats profusely and uncontrollably, surgeons may cut nerves in the chest that control the sweat glands, allowing the glands to dry up.

Page last updated on Jul. 22, 2010