Ask The Doc - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Question: What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and how can it be treated?

By Dr. Joseph Regan, MD, Laparoscopic Surgery, Columbia St. Mary’s

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition that occurs when contents in the stomach reflux back into the esophagus. This reflux can irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, coughing, asthma symptoms and difficulty swallowing.

In the United States, more than 60 million adults experience one or more GERD symptoms at least once per month – 15 million adults have symptoms daily. Often associated with obesity, pregnancy, smoking and the consumption of chocolate, caffeine and alcohol, GERD is an increasingly common condition. Thankfully, there are many different treatment options available depending on the specific cause and severity of symptoms.

In response to the increase in GERD cases, Columbia St. Mary’s recently opened a new Reflux Center to help diagnose and treat patients with GERD. Staffed by a multidisciplinary team – including physicians specializing in GI, ENT, pulmonary and surgery – the new center utilizes the latest methods to evaluate and treat patients.

If you believe you have GERD, the first step is to make an appointment with a physician. Your doctor will be able to determine whether what you’re experiencing is GERD or some other digestive disorder. Testing may include an upper endoscopy (a small scope is used look inside the esophagus, stomach and small intestine), a pH study to measure the amount of acid in the distal esophagus, a barium study to examine the anatomy of the esophagus and upper stomach, and a manometry study to test the function of the esophagus.

Once an official diagnosis has been determined, most patients can have their symptoms managed with lifestyle changes. These changes include decreasing meal size, eliminating late eating, weight control, quitting smoking and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. If symptoms persist, there are several medicinal treatment options, both over-the-counter and prescription level, including antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors.

In some cases, surgery may be required. Columbia St. Mary’s Reflux Center offers three primary procedures, all of which are performed minimally invasively and have shown to significantly reduce – and often eliminate – heartburn, regurgitation, bloating and the need for daily medication.

LINX: This procedure involves inserting a string of titanium magnetic beads – about the size of a quarter – around the base of the esophagus that opens to allow food down but then closes to prevent stomach acid and bile from refluxing.

Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF): This procedure addresses the underlying cause of GERD by reconstructing and repairing the defective gastroesophageal valve.

Nissen Fundoplication: This procedure involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophagus in order to strength the gastroesophageal valve and prevent reflux.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer through regular heartburn and chest pain, you don’t have to be. Schedule an appointment with your physician or call Columbia St. Mary’s Reflux Center and get started on the path to recovery today.

Dr. Joseph Regan is a laparoscopic surgeon at Columbia St. Mary’s. For more information, please call 414-962-2274.

This article appeared in the Thursday, March 10, issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.



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