Can thoracoscopic Heller's myotomy give equivalent results to the more usual laparoscopic Heller's myotomy in the treatment of achalasia?

Michael J Hughes, Mohammed F Chowdhry, William S Walker
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2011, 13 (1): 77-81
A best evidence topic in thoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was 'Can thoracoscopic Heller's myotomy (THM) give equivalent results to the more usual laparoscopic Heller's myotomy (LHM) in the treatment of achalasia?' Altogether, more than 478 papers were found using the reported search, of which eight represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers are tabulated. THM and LHM are two recognised approaches to the performance of a distal oesophageal myotomy in the treatment of achalasia. Of the two meta-analyses on this subject, Campos et al. [Campos GM, Vittinghoff E, Rabl C, Takata M, Gadenstätter M, Lin F, Ciovica R. Endoscopic and surgical treatments for achalasia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Surg 2009;249:45-57] illustrated improved symptom control in LHM compared with THM. Wang et al. [Wang L, Li Y, Li L, Yu C. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the Chinese literature for the treatment of achalasia. World J Gastroenterol 2008;14:5900-5906], however, observed no difference in remission rates following either approach. Close scrutiny of comparison studies revealed superiority in long-term outcomes and symptoms following LHM in three studies. There were, however, studies that illustrated comparable outcome results for THM in both resolution of dysphagia and reflux. Morbidity rates following THM were noted to be similar to or slightly higher than those following LHM in five studies, but no statistically significant difference was illustrated in these studies. Operating time and length of stay were noted to be significantly shorter in LHM when compared with THM in three studies, although there were exceptions to this, with two studies illustrating shorter or equal operating times for THM. However, LHM operating times have been shown to improve with experience gained. We conclude that there is good evidence demonstrating the effectiveness and safety of LHM, and it has come to be regarded as the gold standard treatment of achalasia. When THM is compared with LHM, the long-term results approach parity on occasion but not consistently. The overall postoperative morbidity of THM is not significantly different from that of LHM. An advantage of LHM over THM that is demonstrated is that LHM offers a shorter hospital stay and reduced operative time.

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