JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Robotic Heller myotomy: a safe operation with higher postoperative quality-of-life indices.

Surgery 2007 October
INTRODUCTION: Achalasia is a primary motility disorder of the esophagus that is treated most effectively with operative myotomy. Excellent outcomes with laparoscopic myotomy and fundoplication are well known. Heller myotomy utilizing a computer-enhanced (robotic) laparoscopic platform allows for a more precise dissection by utilizing the superior optics of a 3-dimensional camera and greater degrees of freedom provided by robotic instrumentation. How this affects outcome and quality of life is unknown.

METHODS: We assessed patients' health perceptions using a standardized, validated, health-related, disease-specific quality-of-life metric. Sixty-one consecutive patients undergoing laparoscopic or robotic myotomy over a 6-year period were evaluated prospectively. All operations were performed using intraoperative manometric and endoscopic guidance and all except 5 patients had a fundoplication. The effects of the operation on health-related quality of life were evaluated with the Short Form (SF-36) Health Status Questionnaire and a disease-specific gastroesophageal reflux disease activity (GERD) activity index (GRACI) preoperatively and postoperatively. All patients completed the questionnaire at both time points. Patient scores were compared using 2-way repeated measures analyses of variance followed by the Tukey test. Operative time, estimated blood loss, duration of stay, intraoperative complication, and postoperative complications were analyzed.

RESULTS: Thirty-seven patients had laparoscopic and 24 patients had robotic Heller myotomy. There was an increase in SF-36 overall evaluation of health postoperatively compared with preoperatively in both groups (P < .05). The robotic myotomy patients had better SF-36 Role Functioning (emotional) and General Health Perceptions (P < .05) compared with the laparoscopic group. The GRACI showed an equivalent improvement in severity of symptoms in both groups (P < .05). Operative time was 287 +/- 9 minutes for laparoscopic cases and 355 +/- 23 minutes for robotic cases. Estimated blood loss and duration of stay were not different between groups. There were 3 operative esophageal perforations (8%) during laparoscopic myotomy and all were repaired immediately. There were no perforations or operative complications in the robotic group. Neither group had any additional complications.

CONCLUSIONS: Minimally invasive operative myotomy improves functional status and overall evaluation of health in patients with achalasia. Robotic myotomy had no intraoperative esophageal perforations compared with an 8% intraoperative rate during laparoscopic myotomy. Heller myotomy with partial fundoplication using a robotic platform appears to be a more precise and safer operation than laparoscopic myotomy with improved quality-of-life indices postoperatively compared with laparoscopic myotomy with fewer complications; this suggests that, in skilled hands, the robotic platform may be safer, with improved quality-of-life outcomes.

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