The minimally invasive peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) approach has matured as a treatment for achalasia, with “outstanding” 2- to 5-year outcomes now reported, Stavros N. Stavropoulos, MD, said at a meeting jointly provided by Rutgers and Global Academy for Medical Education.

Dr. Stavros N. Stavropolous

Dr. Stavros N. Stavropolous

“POEM represents a first-line treatment option for achalasia that has equivalent or superior efficacy to Heller [myotomy],” said Dr. Stavropoulos, MD, director of the program in advanced GI endoscopy at NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

Although POEM is associated with more gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) than laparoscopic Heller myotomy, there is some evidence that the advantage of Heller in this respect may decrease over time, he told attendees.

“GERD after POEM is easily treatable with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), with good patient satisfaction and no significant long-term GERD complications,” Dr. Stavropoulos said in a presentation on minimally invasive approaches to esophageal disorders.

NYU Winthrop Hospital was the site of the first human POEM outside of Japan, performed in 2009 by Dr. Stavropoulos, who along with colleagues recently published what he said is the largest single-operator POEM series in the Western hemisphere.

That report in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (2018 Apr;87[4]:972-85) was based on 318 consecutive POEMs performed through October 2016. Dr. Stavropoulos and colleagues reported that over a median follow-up of 28 months they had a 95.7% clinical success rate, defined as a Eckardt score of 3 or more and no further treatment needed.

Those results suggested POEM should be a “treatment of choice” for challenging cases managed at centers who have a high level of experience with the procedure, the investigators said at the time.

Dr. Stavropoulos presented his center’s updated experience including 515 patients undergoing POEM, with a median follow-up of 37 months. About 50% of the patients were previously treated, including 73 (14% who underwent Heller myotomy).

Mean Eckardt scores were 7.7 preprocedure and 0.5 post procedure, while on timed barium swallow, emptying of 50% or greater at 5 minutes was seen in 96% of patients, and 100% emptying at 5 minutes was seen in 68%, according to data Dr. Stavropoulos presented.

Disease-free probability was 99% at 1 year and 90% at 5 years, he added.

There were no deaths, leaks, aborted procedures, or need for drains in this series, according to the investigator. Three percent of patients had a hospitalization exceeding 5 days, while 1% were readmitted because of minor adverse events related to POEM, such as dehydration, Dr. Stavropoulos reported.

In 2017, the American Gastroenterological Association published a clinical practice update “legitimizing” POEM as a first-line achalasia treatment, Dr. Stavropoulos said. That update said POEM should be performed in high-volume centers by experienced physicians.

Patients who experience GERD after POEM can be effectively treated with standard, once-daily PPI therapy, according to the expert.

“The absolute difference in GERD rates between laparoscopic Heller myotomy and POEM is 20%-25% at 1 year, but may decrease with time, and may be associated with inferior dysphagia relief in LHM patients,” Dr. Stavropoulos told attendees.

Dr. Stavropoulos disclosed that he is a consultant for Boston Scientific and ERBE.

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