Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Loyola Doctor Offers Easier Screening for Esophageal Cancer

Patients Don't Have to Take Day Off Work

Patients who are screened for cancer of the esophagus typically have to take a day off work because the procedure requires conscious sedation or general anesthesia.

But Dr. Lee Akst of Loyola University Hospital is examining patients with a new ultra-thin scope that does not require sedation.

A patient can see results right away, and return to work immediately. Also, the patient doesn’t have to be driven home by a family member.

Akst, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine, is one of the first doctors in the Chicago area to offer the new screening procedure, called transnasal esophagoscopy, or TNE.

Candidates for TNE include patients who have long-term acid reflux, with symptoms such as heartburn, throat irritation, dry coughing and throat clearing. In acid reflux patients, stomach acid backs up to the esophagus. In response, the esophagus develops cells similar to stomach cells. These cells are resistant to stomach acid, but are more likely to develop cancer.

The traditional way to screen for this precancerous condition is to insert a scope through the mouth into the esophagus. A camera on the tip of the scope provides a view of the esophagus. Because the traditional scope is passed through the mouth, sedation is often required to keep patients comfortable. This sedation is one of the greatest risks of esophageal screening, and it also lengthens the procedure. From the pre-procedure evaluation to waking up from anesthesia can take several hours.

The TNE scope is only 5 about millimeters in diameter, thin enough to insert through the nose rather than the mouth. Because the scope is thinner than traditional scopes, no intravenous sedation is required. Akst numbs the patient’s nose with an anesthetic spray, but the patient remains fully conscious. The patient feels pressure in the throat, but no pain, and the procedure generally lasts less than 5 minutes. Patients can drive themselves home as soon as the procedure is over.

Akst has done more than 100 TNE procedures, and said he has had excellent results.

One of his patients, Carmen Ortega, underwent TNE because she suffers chronic acid reflux, which she attributes to stress. Ortega said the procedure was fast and painless.

“I definitely would recommend it to someone who doesn’t want to go through anesthesia,” Ortega said.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.