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Steve Abbott_achalasia Bradley

Steve Abbott says surgery to treat a rare swallowing disorder has been a “life-saver”.

For years, every bite or sip Steve Abbott took was a struggle.  Food and liquids wouldn’t go down his esophagus, instead they would back up into his throat, causing pain and nausea.

“It felt like everything I ate was stuck in the top of my neck in my throat,” says the North Knoxville man.  “Even when I drank tea or water, it would fill up in my throat and I would have to wait for it to eventually go down. It was very uncomfortable.”

After multiple diagnostic tests, Abbott’s Gastroenterologist, Dr. Jeffrey Brown, diagnosed the 57-year old with a rare disorder called achalasia.  It is a condition in which the valve at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter, doesn’t completely relax and food can’t easily move into the stomach.  The normal propulsion of food down from the mouth through the esophagus to the stomach is also reduced with the disease. Achalasia does get progressively worse and affects an estimated five out of every 100,000 American adults.

1000px_Trey Bradley DSC_5417Over time Abbott tried medication and underwent three balloon dilation procedures to stretch his esophageal sphincter, but the treatment only gave him temporary relief.

“I was losing weight and swallowing was painful, so Dr. Brown suggested I talk with a surgeon at Premier Surgical about surgery,” explains Abbott.

“I was relieved that I could have the surgery here in Knoxville, because my other choice was to go to the Cleveland Clinic.”

Abbott met with Dr. Joel “Trey” Bradley, III, of Premier Surgical Associates, who has extensive fellowship training in laparoscopic surgery.  He performed a laparoscopic Heller myotomy on Abbott in January at Fort Sanders Regional. The procedure involves releasing a layer of muscle from the lower esophagus and upper stomach that cases it to be too tight. This is all done with minimally invasive techniques using only a few small incisions. This allows the patient to recover faster with less pain and discomfort.stomach anatomy of male

“It’s essentially the opposite of what we do with laparoscopic acid reflux surgery where we make the sphincter tighter,” explains Dr. Bradley.  “With achalasia the sphincter is too tight, so you have to loosen it and allow it to relax.”

Now, food is able to pass from Abbott’s esophagus to his stomach without getting stuck.

For Abbott, it’s made all the difference.  “The surgery has been a life-saver. Dr. Bradley was great and explained everything to me before and after,” says Abbot.  “I’m not having the swallowing problems I did before – I’m doing fine now.”

For more information about this and other procedures performed by Premier Surgical physicians please visit  

About Joel “Trey” Bradley, III, MD:

Dr. Bradley is a general surgery based at Premier Surgical Associate’s Fort Sanders Regional office. He specializes in complex hernia repair as well as laparoscopic procedures.