Clinical Introduction of POEM for Achalasia: Technique

Fig. 5.1
Gastroscope with overtube (arrow) placed

The required supplies for each step are listed in Table 5.1 with ancillary equipment described in Table 5.2. A clear endoscopic cap that contains a hole is used to aid in dissection. It is fixed to the end of the gastroscope with tape—we use black electrical tape to prevent the cap from becoming dislodged in the submucosal tunnel. Methylene Blue is used to aid in visualizing and enhancing the tissue planes. We previously used Indigo Carmine, but that has since been discontinued at our institution. We currently use 125 mg of Methylene Blue with 2.5 mg of epinephrine in 500 cm3 of 0.9% sodium chloride, used in 10 cm3 increments. The dye is injected via an Articulator injection needle (US Endoscopy, Mentor, OH, USA) into the submucosa prior to creation of the longitudinal mucosotomy. Subsequent dye injections utilize a blunt-tipped endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) cannula (G22093, Cook Medical, Bloomington, IN, USA) for the remainder of the case. The dissection in the submucosal plane is carried out with a triangle-tip knife (KD-640L, Olympus, Tokyo, Japan). The energy source for the knife is ERBE set on coag spray, effect 2, 60 W, cut effect 3 (ERBE, Marietta, GA, USA). A solution of 25,000 units of bacitracin in 250 cm3 of 0.9% sodium chloride is made, and 60 cm3 is used at the conclusion of the case to irrigate the submucosal space. Twenty standard endoscopic clips (Resolution Clip, Boston Scientific, Marlborough, MA, USA) are available to close the mucosotomy.

Table 5.1
Essential supplies for the peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM)



Preoperative setup

Diagnostic gastroscope with suction and surgical lubricant

Therapeutic overtube

CO2 insufflator with valve

Monitor positioned over patient’s abdomen

Step stools at patient’s head

Gowns and gloves

Patient setup

Sequential compression devices


Methylene Blue with 12 cm3 syringe and injection needle

Triangle-tip knife with ERBE on cut current

Submucosal tunneling

Cap with electrical tape

Triangle-tip knife with ERBE on coag current

Methylene Blue with 12 cm3 syringe and ERCP cannula

Flashlight to check distance


Triangle-tip knife with ERBE on coag current

Mucosotomy closure

Bacitracin solution in 60 cm3 syringe

Endoscopic clips

Table 5.2
Ancillary supplies for the peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM)



Table with cover

Storage of supplies


Cleaning as needed


Storing solutions as needed


For electrical tape

Cotton-tipped applicators

Cleaning the cap as needed

Blunt needles––1½″ 15 gauge

Injecting the bacitracin solution


Grasping the gastroscope

Scratch pad

Cleaning the triangle-tip knife

Cap from three-way stopcock

Occluding the ERCP cannula side port

Marking pen with labels

Labeling the syringes/solutions

12 cm3 syringe ×4

For Methylene Blue solution

60 cm3 syringe ×2

For bacitracin solution

Dual Knife (KD-650U, Olympus, Tokyo, Japan)

Coagulating bleeding vessels

Hook Knife (KD-620UR, Olympus, Tokyo, Japan)

Coagulating bleeding vessels

IT Knife 2 (KD-611L, Olympus, Tokyo, Japan)

Coagulating bleeding vessels

Laparoscopic tray

Accessing the abdomen

Sterile prep

Use if abdominal access is required

Veress needle or 14 gauge angiocatheter

Decompressing pneumoperitoneum

Additional supplies available in the operating room include sterile preparation materials and a minor laparoscopic tray in the event the abdomen requires access. In the first several cases completed at this institution, a laparotomy tray was kept sterile and open in the operating room. After hundreds of cases and increasing expertise with the procedure, a laparoscopic tray is now placed unopened in the operating room. A 14-gauge angiocatheter or a Veress needle (Ethicon, Somerville, NJ, USA) is available to evacuate the pneumoperitoneum if it is noted during periodic examinations. A Coagrasper (FD-411UR, Olympus, Tokyo, Japan) is available if needed for hemostasis. An extra triangle tip knife is available as well.

The operating table is positioned such that the head of the bed is rotated slightly away from the anesthesia equipment to allow the anesthetist and the endoscopists adequate space for the operation. A monitor suspended from a boom is lowered to just over the patient’s abdomen for all operators. If that is not possible, a split-leg bed is used with the monitor placed between the patient’s legs. The table of endoscopic equipment (Fig. 5.2) is positioned to the patient’s left side, based on the typical setup of the equipment in the operating room used for this procedure.


Fig. 5.2
Table with required instruments. A: Methylene Blue. B: Methylene Blue attached to endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) cannula. C: bacitracin solution. D: triangle-tip knife. E: Methylene Blue attached to injection needle

With regard to operating room staff, either endoscopy or operating room nursing staff can be involved with the POEM. The anesthesiologist involved is asked to follow and state airway plateau pressures and peak end-tidal CO2 values every 5 min. If there are significant increases in either value, the operation is paused and the gastroscope passed into the native esophageal lumen to desufflate the stomach. Frequent communication is emphasized and is an essential aspect to a successful POEM.

Intraoperative Patient and Staff Preparation

After the patient is intubated in the operating room, the endotracheal tube is secured to the right side of the mouth. He/she will need to be under general endotracheal anesthesia for the entirety of the case. Preoperative antibiotics are used prior to mucosotomy—a second-generation cephalosporin is administered. Sequential compression devices are used for deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis. Subcutaneous heparin and urinary catheters are not routinely used, given the relatively short duration of the procedure, typically less than two hours. The left arm is tucked due to the placement of equipment on the patient’s left side. The right arm can remain abducted. The patient’s abdomen is exposed to periodically monitor for gastric distention and pneumoperitoneum. Figure 5.3 shows the patient on the operating room table, the position of the monitor, and the anesthesia equipment.


Fig. 5.3
Patient and monitor positioning. The upper abdomen is exposed to periodically examine for distention

Step stools are placed at the head of the bed. For optimal comfort and positioning, the operating surgeon stands on the step stools a few steps away from the patient’s head. The energy foot pedal is placed on one of the stools. He/she will be manipulating the gastroscope dials and instruments via the channel as well as controlling the energy foot pedal. The assistant surgeon supports and manipulates the gastroscope. He/she usually stands to the left of the operating surgeon and closer to the patient. An endoscopic assistant can stand to either side of the surgeons. We recommend the involvement of two surgeons for the procedure, generally an attending surgeon and a surgical fellow or chief resident at our institution, with additional assistants as needed.

Operative Technique

The overtube is loaded onto the gastroscope, as shown in Fig. 1.1. The air is turned off and the CO2 is turned on at this point. After passing the gastroscope into the esophagus, the overtube is advanced such that the end of the overtube is placed in the proximal esophagus. This allows the gastroscope to pass in and out easily with minimal trauma to the oropharynx and proximal esophagus. The esophagus is assessed and suctioned of all fluid and food debris. This may require the assistance of a double-channel therapeutic gastroscope. The stomach is assessed, taking care to examine the gastroesophageal (GE) junction on retroflexion to exclude neoplasms as a source for pseudoachalasia. The distance from the incisors to the GE junction is measured several times with the overtube in place. A flashlight is used to aid in seeing the marks on the gastroscope while the operating room lights are dimmed.

The gastroscope is removed, and the cap is secured to the end with an electrical tape. The hole in the cap is positioned at 6 o’clock to facilitate drainage of the water used to wash the lens. We found that electrical tape works well in keeping the cap firmly secured. The gastroscope is advanced again until it is approximately 14 cm from the GE junction. The distance from the GE junction and the anterior/posterior position on which to create the mucosotomy varies among operators. Some groups begin the mucosotomy at 6 cm from the GE junction [5], some use 7–10 cm [6], and some use 10–15 cm [7]. We choose to use 14 cm from the GE junction in the event there is mucosal damage while creating the proximal submucosal tunnel. To determine the anterior and posterior esophageal walls, a small volume of Methylene Blue is injected in the lumen with the Articulator injection needle, and the orientation is determined by gravity, as shown in Fig. 5.4. The anterior approach is thought to be technically easier than the posterior approach [1]. For patients who have not previously undergone myotomy for achalasia, we use a strictly anterior approach at the 12 o’clock position. Some groups create the submucosal tunnel at the 2 o’clock [1] or 3 o’clock [7] position in order to be aligned with the lesser curvature of the stomach. The angle of His, which is at approximately 8 o’clock with the patient supine, is avoided to prevent disturbance of natural antireflux mechanisms. For patients who have previously undergone Heller myotomy with fundoplication for achalasia, the patient is routinely positioned with several blankets under the right side, so that the adjusted 12 o’clock position is aligned with the lesser curvature of the stomach. However, another consideration for those who have undergone anterior myotomies via Heller or POEM is a posterior approach [8]. There are groups that routinely utilize the posterior approach for the POEM, with results similar to those using the anterior approach [9, 10]. There currently is no clear evidence that one approach is more effective for first-time myotomies. Once the position of the mucosotomy is determined, the Articulator injector needle is used to inject 8–10 cm3 of the Methylene Blue solution into the submucosal space to lift the mucosa from the muscular layers, as shown in Fig. 5.5. A 2 cm longitudinal mucosotomy is created with the triangle-tip knife on the cut current, as shown in Fig. 5.6 [10]. The length of the mucosotomy is likely not significant, provided the gastroscope with the cap affixed can easily fit into the submucosal space, and the entire length of the mucosotomy is closed securely at the conclusion of the procedure. If the mucosotomy is created and is not long enough for the cap and endoscope to easily pass, the mucosotomy may inadvertently tear, resulting in a longer mucosotomy that will require closure.
Sep 30, 2017 | Posted by in GASTROENTEROLOGY | Comments Off on Clinical Introduction of POEM for Achalasia: Technique
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