Surgeon Marco Patti to head new Center for Esophageal Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center

July 21, 2008

An internationally known surgeon with extensive expertise in the surgical treatment of esophageal diseases, Marco G. Patti, MD, has been appointed Professor of Surgery and Director of the Center for Esophageal Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

One of the few surgeons in the United States who focus entirely on the surgical treatment of esophageal disease, Patti came to the Medical Center from the University of California at San Francisco, where he led a widely recognized esophageal diseases center that specialized in treatment of swallowing disorders, acid reflux and esophageal cancer.

Patti is an authority on the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat esophageal conditions. Performed through very small incisions with the use of specialized instruments and miniature cameras, this approach can lead to a quicker and more comfortable recovery, shorter hospital stay and minimal scarring.

"Marco Patti is an internationally distinguished leader in gastrointestinal surgery and brings a whole new set of strengths to an already very strong program in that specialty," said Jeffrey Matthews, MD, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "He has enormous surgical experience and a long track record of superb outcomes."

At the University of Chicago, Patti has pulled together 19 physicians from nine different specialties--including cardiology, pulmonology and oncology, as well as surgery, gastroenterology, and ear, nose and throat--to form the Center for Esophageal Diseases. The team offers comprehensive care for patients with complex esophageal disease, ranging from common disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux or achalasia, a swallowing disorder, to uncommon, such as esophageal cancer.

"Because some of these disorders are so common, many people tend to live with the discomfort rather than seek treatment," said Patti. "So when they finally come to us, they already have fairly advanced disease."

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, know as GERD, affects an estimated two to three percent of adults. In patients with GERD, a muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach does not close properly. This allows stomach contents to leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus and irritate it.

Although GERD can usually be treated with lifestyle and diet changes combined with medication, chronic reflux can cause serious complications. Repeated exposure to stomach acid can damage the esophagus and cause bleeding or ulcers. Scar tissue can narrow the esophagus and impair swallowing. Some patients with chronic GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus, in which some of the lining of the esophagus is replaced by tissue similar to that in the intestine. This condition, which affects about 700,000 adults in the United States, can progress to esophageal cancer, which is often fatal.

"Physicians are slowly becoming more aggressive about treating these disorder before the complications begin," Patti said. "I have seen too many patients who slowly develop serious damage while struggling with ineffective medications, when a simple operation could have solved the problem."

A cum laude medical graduate of the University of Catania, in Italy, Patti completed his residency in surgery at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and a fellowship in esophageal surgery at the University of Hong Kong. He joined the faculty at UCSF in 1994, where he helped to build a renowned center for minimally invasive surgical treatment of reflux and swallowing disorders. At UCSF, he was part of the group who performed minimally invasive operation for achalasia in the US, eventually improving the technique over the years. The esophageal center there was also known for their excellent outcomes in the treatment of esophageal cancer.

A prolific researcher, Patti has published nearly 150 journal articles and book chapters on esophageal surgery and minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Laparoendoscopic & Advanced Surgical Techniques, Hepatogastroenterology, the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery and the World Journal of Surgery. He has given more than 150 presentations at universities and scientific meetings throughout the world and has served as a visiting professor throughout Italy, Canada, China and the United States.

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