Apr 5, 2024 New Surgical Treatment Option for Dysphagia Offered at Community Medical Center

New Surgical Treatment Option for Dysphagia Offered at Community Medical Center

TOMS RIVER, NJ – April 5, 2024: Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. In some cases, it is the first sign of a rare esophageal disorder. Thanks to a new, minimally invasive surgical approach performed by Nisarg Mehta, DO, a surgeon at Community Medical Center in Toms River, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, patients now have surgical treatment options with faster recoveries and less chance of their symptoms returning.

Bill Ertel, 79, of Toms River, had experienced difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, for decades. It began about a year after chemotherapy and radiation treatment for small cell lymphoma, and as time went on it became more prevalent. He felt he needed to be more careful eating and was experiencing increased coughing.

“For 20 years, I’d been putting up with it,” he says.

Bill continued to have difficulty swallowing for more than 20 years until he was rushed to Community Medical Center following a stroke. During his hospitalization, Neil Nagaria, MD, a gastroenterologist at Community Medical Center, diagnosed Bill with Zenker’s diverticulum.

Zenker’s diverticulum (ZD) is a sac-like pouch that can form in a patient’s esophagus when muscle between the lower part of the throat and the top of the esophagus spasms and does not relax when swallowing. ZD minimizes a person’s ability to swallow, greatly affecting their quality of life. Food and liquids can become trapped in this pouch, leading to not only difficulty swallowing but also regurgitation, coughing, and weight loss.

Dr. Nagaria referred Bill to Nisarg Mehta, DO confirmed his diagnosis, and discussed treatment options.

Instead of the traditional open surgery, which requires an incision in the neck, Dr. Mehta chose to use a recently developed approach, Zenker’s Per Oral Endoscopic Myotomy. Dr. Mehta used an endoscope, a flexible, tube-shaped instrument, inserted through the mouth and into the tissue layer of the esophagus. During the procedure, the spasming muscle is severed so food can pass more easily through the esophagus without getting trapped in the pouches. This new treatment technique is performed in the ‘third space,’ within the walls of the esophagus.

“Third space surgery is the future,” says Dr. Mehta. “It’s less invasive and results in a much faster recovery for patients. There aren’t any big staples, no operation through the outside of the neck.”

This highly specialized surgical method can result in multiple benefits and fewer risks for the patient, including a shorter procedure time and hospital stay, reduced patient discomfort, and quicker return to oral food intake. It is also associated with less chance of the patient’s symptoms returning after the procedure than endoscopic treatment.

Dr. Mehta performed the surgery on Bill at Community Medical Center, and the patient was discharged on the second day without any complications.

After only a few weeks of recovery at home and a soft food diet, Dr. Mehta cleared Bill to resume solid food, just in time for a Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife.

To learn more about surgical options and other services at Community Medical Center, visit rwjbh.org/community.

Bill Ertel (left) underwent surgical treatment at Community Medical Center to treat Zenker's diverticulum. He was able to recover from minimally invasive treatment in time to enjoy Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, Marcia (right).