The Esophageal Disorders Clinic at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health is one of the few children’s hospitals in the region to offer both the peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) and EndoFlip procedures, two of the leading tools for diagnosis and treatment of achalasia. We also offer minimally invasive Heller myotomy when appropriate. 

For children with achalasia, the muscles that cause the esophagus to contract and push food down toward the stomach don’t work properly. This makes it difficult to swallow, and patients might exhibit symptoms such as vomiting undigested food, weight loss and an inability to gain weight, pain or burning in the chest, bad breath, and coughing spells after eating. Although doctors know that achalasia is the result of abnormalities of the nerve cells that supply the esophageal muscles, the cause of these abnormalities is not known.

Diagnosing Achalasia

To diagnose achalasia, doctors must look into the esophagus to see how your child is swallowing. Until recently, getting an accurate picture was elusive because of difficulties taking measurements when patients swallowed food. Fortunately, Stanford Children’s Health is now home to EndoFlip, the most advanced diagnostic tool available, which is used alongside more traditional diagnostic procedures to allow doctors to fully observe the patient’s swallowing function.

If your child is diagnosed with achalasia, we can provide ample treatment options, including POEM and EsoFlip technologies. Our esophageal specialists are leading researchers in these treatments and have published widely on them. Achalasia usually continues to get worse if it is not treated, and surgery is often the only effective treatment. Fortunately, our doctors are leaders in developing groundbreaking surgical procedures that use endoscopic methods, meaning that achalasia surgery is performed through a tube that is inserted through the mouth rather than requiring large incisions on the outside of the body.