Background. Laparoscopic Heller myotomy has emerged as the treatment of choice for achalasia. However, intraoperative esophageal perforation remains a significant complication. Computer-enhanced operative techniques have the potential to improve outcomes for certain operative procedures. Robotic, computer-enhanced laparoscopic telemanipulators using 3-dimensional magnified imaging and motion scaling are designed uniquely to facilitate certain operations requiring fine-tissue manipulation. We hypothesized that computer-enhanced robotic Heller myotomy would reduce intraoperative complications compared with laparoscopic techniques. Methods. All patients undergoing an operation for achalasia at 3 institutions with a robotic surgery system (DaVinci; Intuitive Surgical Corporation, Sunnyvale, Calif) were followed-up prospectively. Demographics, perioperative course, complications, and hospital stay were recorded. Follow-up evaluation was obtained via a standardized symptom survey, office visits, and medical records. Data were compared with preoperative symptoms using a Mann-Whitney U test, and operating times were compared using the ANOVA test. Results. Between August 2000 and August 2004 there were 104 patients who underwent a robotic Heller myotomy with partial fundoplicaton. There were 53 women and 51 men. All patients were symptomatic. The operative time was 140.55 minutes overall, but improved from 162.63 minutes to 113.50 minutes from 2000-2002 to 2003-2004 (P = .0001). There were no esophageal perforations. There were 8 minor complications and 1 patient required conversion to an open operation. Sixty-six (62.3%) patients were discharged on the first postoperative day and the average hospital stay was 1.5 days. A symptom survey was completed in 79 of 104 patients (76%) at follow-up evaluation. Symptoms improved in all patients with an average follow-up symptom score of 0.48 compared with 5.0 before the operation (P = .0001). Forty-three of the 79 patients from whom follow-up data were collected had a minimum follow-up period of 1 year. The follow-up period averaged 16 months. No patients required reoperation. Conclusions. Computer-enhanced robotic laparoscopic techniques provide a clear advantage over standard laparoscopy for the operative treatment of achalasia. We have shown in this large series that Heller myotomy can be completed using this technology without esophageal perforation. The application of computer-enhanced operative techniques appears to provide superior outcomes in selected procedures.
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