Pioneering operation gives Whitby man new lease of life

Prof Viswanath YKS (third right) and Dr Anjan Dhar (second right) with the team at James Cook University Hospital.
Prof Viswanath YKS (third right) and Dr Anjan Dhar (second right) with the team at James Cook University Hospital.

A Whitby man was given a new lease of life when The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough became the first in northern England to undertake a per-oral endoscopic myotomy procedure – or POEM for short.

POEM is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for the treatment of achalasia, a disorder of the oesophagus (gullet) that makes it hard for foods and liquids to pass into the stomach.

Ten years ago, Whitby taxi driver Brian Murfield started to regularly have indigestion and occasional problems with swallowing, often regurgitating his food.

Brian, 59 was diagnosed with achalasia and as the years went by his condition got worse until he collapsed at a football match and ended up at James Cook.

Brian had collapsed because he had become badly dehydrated, the result of his achalasia getting worse. It was decided that Brian needed a myotomy sooner rather than later. He was given the option of having a POEM procedure.

Brian said the procedure had changed his life.

He said “I don’t regurgitate any more, I don’t get reflux. I’ve lost weight and I haven’t felt this well in ten years or more. I feel great.”

The procedure was undertaken by Professor Viswanath YKS, consultant surgeon at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and his team, supported by Dr Anjan Dhar, consultant gastroenterologist at Darlington Memorial Hospital and Dr Matt Banks, consultant gastroenterologist at University College London Hospitals.

Professor Viswanath said: “James Cook is the first hospital to undertake this procedure across the whole of northern England and Scotland. There are only another few hospitals that do POEM procedures and they are in London, Nottingham and Portsmouth.”

Brian was discharged two days after the operation and is already showing excellent recovery.

He said: “I was put on a liquid diet for the next five weeks which I know sounds horrible but it was fine. In fact I discovered smoothies and now I love them. And I got used to blending some of the foods I love – like cottage pie.

“And after that I started eating solid food again.

“In many ways the work of Dr Viswanath and Dr Dhar changed my life.”