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A comparative study of robotic and laparoscopic approaches to Heller myotomy

      Abstract

      Objective

      Minimally invasive Heller myotomy for achalasia is commonly performed laparoscopically, but recently done with robotic assistance. We compare outcomes of the 2 approaches.

      Methods

      From January 2010 to January 2020, 447 patients underwent Heller myotomy with anterior fundoplication (170 with robotic assistance and 277 laparoscopically). End points included short-term and longitudinal esophageal emptying according to timed barium esophagram, symptom relief according to Eckardt score, and time-related reintervention. Normal esophageal morphology, present in 328 patients, was defined as nonsigmoidal with width <5 cm. We performed a propensity score--matched analysis to evaluate outcomes among robotic and laparoscopic groups.

      Results

      Timed barium esophagrams showed complete emptying at 5 minutes in 58% (77/132) of the robotic group and 48% (115/241) of the laparoscopic group in the short term (within 6 months of surgery). In the propensity-matched patients with normal esophageal morphology, the robotic group had a higher longitudinal prevalence of complete emptying of barium at 5 minutes (54% vs 34% at 4 years; P = .05), better intermediate-term Eckardt scores (1.7% vs 10% > 3 at 4 years; P = .0008), and actuarially fewer reinterventions (1.2% vs 11% at 3 years; P = .04).

      Conclusions

      Both robotically assisted and laparoscopic Heller myotomy had excellent outcomes in patients treated for achalasia. In a matched subgroup of patients with normal esophageal morphology within this heterogeneous disease, the robotic approach might be associated with greater esophageal emptying, palliation of symptoms, and freedom from reintervention in the intermediate term. Long-term analysis would be important to determine if this trend persists.

      Graphical abstract

      Key Words

      Abbreviation and Acronym:

      POEM (per-oral endoscopic myotomy)
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