Battling Heartburn

Friday, April 8, 2011 - 8:31am

High tech surgery offers relief when diet and medication can't help.

Heartburn, stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus, causes irritation and torment for millions.

Medications are very successful at controlling acid, but some called "proton pump inhibitors" have been linked to serious side effects such as wrist fractures, infections, osteoporosis and low magnesium.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Bob Etemad says some sufferers are turning to a new procedure called "TIF."

"About 80 percent of patients are finding complete symptom relief using this technique, and roughly the same amount are getting off their protein pump inhibitors," he says.

Under general anesthesia, a tube-like device is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus.

It tightens the lower esophageal sphincter, creating a more effective barrier against acid.

"The valve is faulty or loose or misaligned and this procedure is one in a many series over history, but this is the least invasive so far of finding a way of repairing that valve," Dr. Etamad says.

There are no incisions.

All the work is done through the mouth.

It requires an overnight hospital stay and two to three weeks of recovery.

"The results for me were outstanding. No restriction on anything I can eat. I'm happy. I feel good. I have not had any episodes of any kind. I don't have to sleep on a bed that's inclined anymore," says patient Jerry Covey.

Dr. Etemad says side effects are minor, but there is a low risk of bleeding or infection.

It won't work on 20-percent of those who have it, but it is reversible.

The procedure is not for those who are very overweight.

Most large insurance companies will cover the cost.

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