The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, allowing food to enter into the digestive system. There are a variety of diseases of the esophagus that often result in heartburn, regurgitation, and other painful or discomforting digestive symptoms.

At the West Coast Associates for Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery, renowned thoracic surgeons Ali Mahtabifard, MD and Clark Fuller, MD have undergone extensive training in the comprehensive management of esophageal disease.  Having served as Division Chief, Clinical Chief and Director roles at various prestigious medical institutions, Dr. Mahtabifard and Dr. Fuller utilize the most current medical knowledge and cutting-edge surgical techniques to deliver the highest quality, patient-centered care with excellent outcomes.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disease that results in chronic heartburn, regurgitation, and other discomforting digestive symptoms due to the reverse flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus. For this reason, GERD is often referred to as acid reflux or persistent heartburn. Over time, GERD can lead to more severe conditions within the upper digestive tract, including ulcers, esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. Several minimally invasive treatment options, including Nissen Fundoplication or the incisionless TIF procedure, can be performed to alleviate GERD symptoms and prevent progression of esophageal disease.

Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a precursor to esophageal cancer that may develop in up to 20 percent of patients with GERD, as a result of chronic damage to the esophageal lining. Early treatment of Barrett’s esophagus can substantially reduce the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Minimally invasive surgical options, including reflux surgery, incisionless reflux surgery (TIF), and radiofrequency ablation therapy, can be used to destroy the abnormal tissue and prevent further progression of this pre-cancerous lesion.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is classified as either squamous cell carcinoma (upper or mid esophagus) or adenocarcinoma (lower esophagus) and is the sixth most leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Cancer of the lower esophagus has become more prevalent in recent years, due largely to an increase in the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, an individualized treatment plan needs to be devised and usually begins with proper staging. Proper staging of the cancer then dictates further treatment. After accurate staging, a combination of surgery (esophago-gastrectomy), chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is often required for optimal treatment. Having trained at some of the world’s most prestigious cancer hospitals, our thoracic surgeons are highly qualified to treat esophageal cancer and are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes.

Esophageal Motility Disorders

Esophageal motility disorders encompass a broad range of diseases impacting the function of the esophagus. Achalasia is the most common esophageal motility disorder that is treated surgically. Achalasia is a condition in which abnormal contraction or failure of relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter impedes flow of food from the esophagus to the stomach. Minimally invasive surgery to cut the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter is the gold standard of treatment for this form of esophageal disease. The operation is referred to as a Heller myotomy. Achalasia should be treated by an experienced thoracic surgeon with expertise in the diagnostic work up and various treatment options, including minimally invasive surgical options.

Contact a Los Angeles Thoracic Surgeon

Ali Mahtabifard, MD, and Clark Fuller, MD, directors of the West Coast Associates for Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery, are renowned thoracic surgeons who specialize in the comprehensive treatment of esophageal disease and other thoracic conditions. As leading experts in the field of minimally invasive thoracic surgery, Dr. Mahtabifard and Dr. Fuller perform a variety of cutting-edge procedures that offer significant benefits over traditional surgical techniques.

To learn more about esophageal disease or to schedule a consultation with one of our expert thoracic surgeons, please contact us 310.854.0909 or fill out our online contact form.

Next, read about gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).