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The Heart(burn) of the Matter

Posted on June 3, 2021 in Uncategorized

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.”

Breakthrough Technology

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.