Innovative Procedure at Fort Sanders Regional Eliminates Woman’s Symptoms
Kim Hagan has suffered from heartburn and reflux for as long as she can remember. No matter what she ate, the feeling of acid reflux remained constant.
“I would refrain from eating after a certain hour, but it wouldn’t matter. I ended up sleeping propped up in the living room sleeper chair most nights,” she recalls. “It burned my throat to lay flat in the bed.”
Hagan recently underwent a newly available anti-reflux procedure called magnetic sphincter augmentation at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Michael Antiporda, MD, is a general surgeon who has specialized training in diagnosis and medical management of gastrointestinal conditions such as reflux. He is skilled in helping his patients get the right diagnosis and navigate proper treatment.
“Reflux is a consequence of abnormal anatomy in the lower esophageal sphincter,” Dr. Antiporda explains. “When this dysfunction occurs, the lower esophageal sphincter is no longer a one-way valve preventing the stomach contents from coming up the esophagus. When that happens, there are over-the-counter medications available that can suppress the acid, but they do not keep physical movement from acid coming up in severe cases.”
Dr. Antiporda underscored that for people suffering from reflux, surgery is not the first line of defense. Many people find relief with medication or lifestyle and diet changes. He says, “Ms. Hagan was an excellent candidate for this procedure because she had experienced years of severe reflux symptoms, which medication was no longer helping. Her symptoms were impacting her quality of life, and based on comprehensive testing, we observed the physiology of her esophagus and saw the dysfunction and how this procedure would help solve the issue.”
Traditionally, patients would undergo acid reflux surgery called fundoplication. During this operation, the surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus in order to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing stomach acid from coming up the esophagus and throat. This procedure is still used to treat severe reflux.
With magnetic sphincter augmentation, a small device made of metal beads is inserted around the esophagus with a tight enough grip to prevent reflux from coming back up. The beads move apart during swallowing to allow food to pass through.
Dr. Antiporda explains, “Having a device made of titanium will last a patient’s entire life — it won’t stretch, wear out or need replacing over time.” He says the operation has fewer complications than traditional anti-reflux surgery and offers a faster, more comfortable recovery time for patients, with immediate resolution of symptoms. Patients typically discontinue reflux medication and can eat regular food right away.
“This Changed My Life”
“After several diagnostic tests, I met with Dr. Antiporda and found out about the procedure and said, ‘sign me up!’” Hagan says. “He is so knowledgeable. He was enthusiastic about helping me. He gave me plenty of reading material to take home, which I appreciated. He made sure we were on the same page.”
Hagan received several small laparoscopic incisions and spent one night at Fort Sanders Regional. The retired nurse, who has had many surgeries, said her post-operative experience was “a breeze,” with no discomfort. Post-op instructions included recommendations to take small bites and chew food thoroughly. After living with reflux for so long, Hagan feared the symptoms would continue, but she happily reports, “Two months later, I have had zero reflux or heartburn issues.”
“This surgery has been a miracle,” she beams. “This has changed my life for the better.”
About Magnetic Sphincter Augmentation
The magnetic sphincter augmentation device is a small flexible band of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores designed to restore the body’s natural barrier to reflux in patients with GERD.
The device helps prevent abnormal amounts of acid from the stomach from moving back into the esophagus. This restricted flow can improve heartburn symptoms and reflux (regurgitation) and lead to patients no longer requiring medication for treatment.
This anti-reflux surgical procedure is considered for people whose chronic GERD cannot be controlled medically, including daily use of medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Talk to your doctor if you are considering anti-reflux surgery.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is not uncommon. In fact, one in five Americans suffer from symptoms of GERD. These include heartburn, trouble with regurgitation, trouble swallowing or experiencing reflux daily. Other red flags include chronic cough, voice change or throat pain. Talk to your doctor if reflux symptoms worsen.
For more information on treatment options, visit FSRegional.com/Gastroenterology.