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The Esophageal Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Thoracic Surgery employs a variety of minimally invasive and traditional surgical approaches to comprehensively treat esophageal diseases. Conditions include esophageal cancer, esophageal reflux, paraesophageal hernia and benign esophageal tumor. The Division of Thoracic Surgery has board-certified thoracic surgeons with decades of institutional and individual experience. We create an individualized treatment approach for each patient and often work together with physicians from other medical specialties to treat the most challenging patients and conditions.
Our high volume of surgical cases and skilled team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, physical therapists and speech therapists help us to attain excellent results in treating patients with esophageal cancer and other complex conditions of the esophagus. We utilize surgical and anesthetic techniques that enable patients to return to normal movement quickly and experience a shorter hospital stay.
Esophageal cancer presents in two main forms: squamous cell carcinoma and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
All patients will meet with a surgeon before treatment. Patients with early esophageal cancer first undergo surgical removal of the cancer, while patients with locally advanced cancers generally receive chemotherapy and radiation before surgery. We choose the most appropriate surgical approach for esophageal cancer based on the disease and the patient’s needs. Generally, these procedures involve removing all or part of the esophagus and some of the surrounding tissue:
Our division offers diagnostic and therapeutic management of benign esophageal diseases. The majority of our patients with benign esophageal conditions can be treated with minimally invasive laparoscopic or thoracoscopic procedures. These allow our patients to enjoy a significantly quicker recovery. The conditions we treat and procedures we perform include:
Each patient's situation is unique and requires careful consideration of many factors to determine the best treatment options and care team for his or her esophageal disease. We work collaboratively with surgeons in Mass General’s Gastroesophageal Surgery Program, who specialize in complex surgical techniques to treat patients with esophageal cancers or other non-cancerous esophageal conditions. We also work closely with our colleagues in medical oncology and radiation therapy in treating esophageal cancer. If a patient has other diseases in addition to the esophageal disorder, we involve additional world-class Mass General specialists — cardiologists, pulmonologists, anesthesiologists, pain medicine specialists and others — to help the patient safely through the procedure and back to health.As a first step, new patients meet with one of our thoracic surgeons to determine the most effective course of treatment and whether further evaluation is needed.If additional evaluation by an oncologist and radiotherapist is needed, we may refer patients with esophageal cancer to the Mass General Cancer Center’s Center for Thoracic Cancers multidisciplinary clinic. Typically, multimodality therapy (i.e., surgery following radiation therapy and chemotherapy) produces the greatest benefit for patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer.
At Mass General, we believe it's important to provide safe and effective care. The Department of Surgery tracks many performance measures and compares them to national data. On the following pages, you can view some of these metrics.
Esophagectomy for Cancer Case Volumes See how Mass General’s esophagectomy for cancer case volumes compare to the national average.
Esophagectomy for Cancer Outcomes Learn about Mass General's esophagectomy outcomes compared to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons norms.
Patient Ratings of Thoracic Surgeons See how Mass General’s thoracic surgery patients rate their doctors.
Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which normal cells that line the esophagus turn into cells not usually found in humans called “specialized columnar cells.”
Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus.
Bob Hazelton lived with chronic acid reflux for years and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011. After his surgical team at Massachusetts General Hospital performed a minimally invasive esophagectomy, Bob has a healthy esophagus and is getting back to his active lifestyle.
Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) is a specialized endoscopic technique used by gastroenterologists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Digestive Healthcare Center to diagnose and remove large areas of early gastrointestinal cancers.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an FDA-approved endoscopic technique used by specialists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Barrett's Esophagus Treatment Center to treat Barrett's esophagus.
Minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE) is a procedure performed by Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons using small incisions to remove a diseased esophagus and reconstruct the gastrointestinal tract. For more information, visit massgeneral.org/MIE
Learn more about general anesthesia in this educational video.
Division of Thoracic Surgery
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