Waldron B Patient Story: Waldron's Story

“I’ve definitely had an improvement and have been able to get pills down easier. I was quite miserable with the situation so I’m pleased it keeps getting better. Getting old is tough!”

When Waldron Bishop, 68, of Eatontown, began noticing difficulty swallowing, he was concerned.

With allergy season on the horizon, Waldron was under the impression he was dealing with sinus issues. As his difficulty swallowing became more pronounced, Waldron became increasingly miserable and realized trying to swallow pills was becoming most problematic.

Waldron sought the opinion of board-certified gastroenterologist Steven Gorcey, M.D., chief of gastrointestinal endoscopy at Monmouth Medical Center, who diagnosed him with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when the muscle at the end of the esophagus does not close properly and gastric acid from the stomach leaks back into the esophagus, often causing inflammation of the esophagus.
As part of the diagnosis, Dr. Gorcey performed an endoscopy on Waldron, which showed that Waldron was also suffering from Zenker’s diverticulum, a condition in which a pouch forms at the back of the throat at the junction of the pharynx and the esophagus causing extreme difficulty swallowing.

“The pouch was exactly what I was feeling and explained what was going on,” said Waldron. “Medication was actually getting stuck in there and I couldn’t get it out.”

Dr. Gorcey discussed two surgical options with Waldron, the first of which was a more traditional approach requiring the patient to undergo open neck surgery to resect the muscles. The second option, a newer procedure, was a minimally-invasive cricopharyngeal myotomy in which the muscle causing the pouch is cut, allowing food to pass through while swallowing.

“I went home to think about it. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew I had to do something. I went back to Dr. Gorcey and agreed to go with the new procedure,” said Waldron.

“In the past, surgeons had to use a dramatic approach that resulted in a difficult recovery. The endoscopic approach, however, doesn’t require the removal of the diverticulum,” said Dr. Gorcey. “Instead, we can open it up into the esophagus using an incision called a needle knife through a flexible endoscope. The procedure, called a myotomy, involves cutting through part of the muscles to allow the pocket to drain into the esophagus more freely, so that the food previously getting stuck in the pocket can now fall through the incision.”

Following the procedure, Waldron was kept in the hospital for only one night and could eat regular food within just a matter of days.

“The procedure itself and the recovery was more than comfortable,” says Waldron. “I’ve definitely had an improvement and have been able to get pills down easier. I was quite miserable with the situation so I’m pleased it keeps getting better. Getting old is tough!”

The state-of-the-art procedure, which takes about 30 minutes and can be performed in the operating room with general anesthesia, is only offered at a handful of medical centers throughout the country. Dr. Gorcey learned the procedure when he trained at Hadassah University Medical Center’s Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases under Dr. Harold Jacob – one of the world’s leading endoscopic surgeons.

“Our ability to offer this procedure furthers Monmouth Medical Center’s position as the premier hospital for non-invasive surgery. When there’s a chance we can avoid resection by creating a more minimally invasive option, we do,” said Dr. Gorcey, adding that Monmouth Medical Center boasts the highest surgical success rate in the state. “Most facilities don’t offer this kind of collaboration between advanced laparoscopic surgeons and advanced surgical endoscopists. Recently the term C.E.L.S. was coined which stands for Combined Endoscopic Laparoscopic Surgery,” Dr. Gorcey said “we have been doing procedures like this for the past 10 years by thinking out of the box.”