Overindulging on all those tasty foods on Thanksgiving Day can lead to heartburn for a day for some people, but for those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), battling heartburn or acid reflux is a common occurrence. The disease can lead to major health complications.
The week of Thanksgiving is known as National GERD Awareness Week. An estimated one in every five American adults suffers from GERD.
Dr. Blaine Cashmore, general surgeon at Mountain West Medical Center, said a lot of people suffer from heartburn and acid reflux and use over-the-counter medications to combat the malady.
“Most of these medications work pretty well, but there are some concerns using the medications long-term with possible osteoporosis and cancers. If you have GERD for a longtime, continuous reflux can cause inflammation in the esophagus, respiratory complications, and esophageal cancer,” he said.
However, A non-invasive surgery known as the TIF Procedure, short for Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, may help those suffering from GERD.
Dr. Cashmore is the only surgeon in Utah who specializes in the TIF Procedure.
“We’ve done 25-30 of the procedures and when we follow up afterwards patients say they haven’t had any heartburn since the procedure,” the doctor said. Cashmore said about 75 percent of patients who had the procedure reported they were entirely off their medications within three years.
He added, “One-third of heartburn patients are unsatisfied with their medications, but don’t want to make the big jump to this new type of surgery.
“This surgery re-creates the normal anatomy where your esophagus and stomach come together,” Cashmore said. “Normally there is a little valve at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach that holds everything down in the stomach. Over time, that valve gets broken down. With this procedure, we go in with 20 little fasteners to recreate that valve.”
He said the procedure leaves no scars, minimizes complications and has a quicker recovery time with lasting results for patients.
GERD is a chronic condition caused by changes in the gastroesophageal valve (GEV) that allow contents to flow from the stomach back into the esophagus. Left untreated, GERD can lead to bothersome symptoms, which can vary from mild or moderate to severe depending on the individual.
Typical symptoms: burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux) and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Atypical symptoms: sensation of a lump in the throat (globus), shortness of breath/ asthma, chronic dry cough, chronic sore throat, laryngitis and hoarseness, sleep disruptions, dental erosions and non-cardiac chest pain
GERD is not an acid problem – instead, it is caused by an anatomical issue. The acid our stomach produces is important for digestion, killing harmful bacteria and helping with the absorption of electrolytes and other nutrients from the foods we consume. GERD occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus is not working properly and fails to keep contents in the stomach from washing back up into the esophagus. Medications may offer mild to intermittent symptom control, but they do not stop or prevent reflux.
If you are reaching for antacids more than twice a week, it’s time to see a doctor. If your current medications aren’t working well enough, there are alternative endoscopic therapies like the TIF procedure for reflux that could be right for you. The Transesophageal Incisionless Fundoplication is a long-term solution to chronic GERD and General Surgeon, Dr. Blaine Cashmore, at Mountain West Medical Center, is the only person in Utah performing this surgery.