According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million American adults suffer from heartburn at least once a month, while 15 million adults experience heartburn every day. Although heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), patients may experience other symptoms, including: hoarseness or laryngitis, frequent swallowing, asthma or asthma-like symptoms, pain or discomfort in the chest, bloating; intolerance of certain foods, dental erosion, or gum disease and inflammation.
Normally, after swallowing, a valve between the esophagus and stomach opens to allow food to pass then it closes to prevent stomach contents from “refluxing” back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. For people who suffer from GERD, this valve has become dysfunctional and is unable to prevent acid from refluxing into the esophagus.
In addition to extreme discomfort and lifestyle changes, GERD can lead to many serious conditions. For example, persistent exposure of the delicate tissue of the esophagus can cause chronic inflammation or esophagitis, which in turn can lead to Barrett’s metaplasia, a precancerous condition.
Here are answers to questions patients frequently ask me about treatments for GERD:
Can’t GERD be treated by medication? — In addition to dietary controls, medications like non-prescription antacids, PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) and H2 blockers help prevent the acceleration of GERD. Over time however, these medications may lose their effectiveness requiring increased dosage, increasing both cost and the risk of long term side effects.
What surgical procedures are available? — Invasive surgical procedures, such as the Nissen fundoplication, have long been considered an effective therapy for GERD. However, the complexity of these procedures, the risk of adverse events and the long hospital stay required after the procedure causes many patients to forgo a surgical solution. A new option, the EsophyX Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) procedure, builds upon the principles of invasive open and laparoscopic surgical procedures, but is performed through the mouth, does not require incisions, and does not dissect any part of the natural internal anatomy.
What can I expect from EsophyX TIF? — The TIF procedure is performed safely, quickly, comfortably, with no incisions and with a short hospital stay. While under anesthesia the flexible EsophyX device will be gently lowered through the mouth into the stomach under the visualization of an endoscope “video” placed down the shaft of the device. Once inside the stomach, the surgeon will manipulate the device to create a tight sealing valve and hold it in place with suture-like fasteners.
What happens after the TIF procedure? — Most patients can return to work within a few days following their procedure. Patients will likely experience some manageable discomfort in their chest, nose, throat and stomach for the first few days to a week. Patients will be asked to restrict physical activity for the first week and will be given dietary guidelines to help maximize their success while their body heals.
Is the TIF procedure safe? — The TIF procedure has been proven safe for use in hundreds of procedures worldwide. Based on extensive research, TIF procedures reduce adverse effects known from traditional procedures like dysphasia and gas bloat syndrome, reduce pain and reduce post-procedure hospital stays.
Tanja Gunsberger, D.O.. is board-certified in general surgery and is a physician on the medical staff at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Gunsberger practices at Tempe Surgical Specialists in Tempe, Ariz. To learn more about GERD and the TIF procedure, visit tempestlukeshospital.com , or call 1-877-351-WELL (9355) for a referral to a physician specializing in treating patients with GERD.
This information is provided by Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital as general information only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.