New Treatments for GERD

March 29, 2013

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), more often referred to as heartburn, is one of the most common ailments affecting people today.  Over 60 million Americans have problems with GERD—but there are ways to treat the disease.

On Thursday, April 18, Dr. John Koziarski, a member of the Bronson Battle Creek medical staff, will speak at Burnham Brook Center about the ‘New treatments for GERD that may be better than medicines.’  His one-hour talk, which is free to the public, is sponsored through Senior Health Partners in coordination with Bronson Battle Creek.  

A light lunch will be provided beginning at 11:30 a.m. followed by Dr. Koziarski’s presentation at noon.  Seating is limited.  For reservations call toll free 1-877-462-2247.

The esophagus is a long tube about an inch in diameter, which carries the food from the mouth to the stomach.  As the name implies, GERD occurs when acid from the stomach (‘gastro’) backwashes (‘reflux’) into the esophagus (‘esophageal’).

The stomach digests the food in many ways, but the two main actions are to mix the food with acid and churn it back and forth. The acid in the stomach is a very strong acid. The stomach lining is made to withstand the burning that this acid would produce to most tissues. 

The esophagus, however, does not have a lining that will protect it from the acid. Therefore, if the valve between the esophagus and the stomach does not close tightly the acidic material will leak (reflux) back up into the esophagus and burn the lining of the esophagus. The person will feel this as heartburn or regurgitation (feeling food or liquid coming back up into the throat). 

The standard treatment for GERD involves lifestyle changes and medications. Americans spend an estimated $10 billion a year treating the symptoms, but do not eliminate the disease. The strongest medications are the PPIs (proton pump inhibitors – Prilosec, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Protonix, Aciphex®). These drugs may stop the production of acid; however they do not address the problem of the leaking valve. 

Therefore, the stomach contents are still washing up into the esophagus, but since they are not as acidic, the burning is reduced or eliminated. In many patients, even though the medications do control the symptoms, they will need to take them every day for the rest of their life. The long-term effects of taking these medications are still being studied. There are also significant costs associated with long-term use of these medications. Even the generic, over the counter ones can cost $1 per pill.

Surgical procedures to address GERD have been developed over the years. The basic component of the repair is to re-establish the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. This allows the stomach to continue to produce acid (which is needed for digestion), but keeps the acid from refluxing into the esophagus.

The newest procedure to correct the faulty valve is called transoral incision less fundoplication (TIF). This procedure involves recreating the valve through the mouth, throat, and down the esophagus thereby avoiding any incisions on the abdomen. 

It takes about 45 minutes to perform and patients spend the night in the hospital for intravenous fluids—liquids can be started the next day.  Since there are no incisions, there is very little pain after the procedure. Over the next four to six weeks patients can start to lift more, and advance from liquids to soft to regular foods.

Senior Health Partners, a community partnership of Bronson Battle Creek, CentraCare, Region 3B Area Agency on Aging, and Summit Pointe, works to expand wellness and educational offerings to senior citizens in Calhoun and surrounding counties.  

Bronson Battle Creek is a 218-bed hospital that provides full outpatient and inpatient acute care including robotic surgery, diagnostics, and rehabilitation services; 100% all private rooms.  It also offers world-class diagnostic capabilities including PET/CT imaging, freestanding ‘open’ and traditional MRI, CT (16- and 64-slice), and 3.0 Tesla MRI.  Bronson Battle Creek has been recognized nationally as one of the safest hospitals, and has been a leader in the development of electronic health records as evidenced by multiple honors as one of America’s ‘most wired’ and ‘most wireless’ hospitals. The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons recognizes the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Program, and the only hospital in Michigan to receive the CoC’s Outstanding Achievement Award three times in a row. Specialty services include inpatient behavioral health, the county’s largest accredited sleep center, and a wound-healing center with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  For nine years, Bronson Healthcare has been included on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies list as a leading family friendly employer. 


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