Watch Presentation on GERD, Treatment Options by Dr. Huy Nguyen
Chances are, most people have experienced heartburn a time or two and simply chalked it up to poor lifestyle choices, like eating too close to bedtime or overeating. Heartburn is such a common condition that it is often ignored or quickly treated with an over-the-counter medication. Occasional heartburn may not be a reason for concern. However, if your heartburn is more than occasional and affecting your lifestyle, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that may require more than just an antacid.
GERD, characterized by chronic, reoccurring heartburn, can lead to serious complications if proper care is not taken. A digestive disease, GERD is caused by a lower esophageal sphincter that is weak or relaxes inappropriately. When an individual has GERD, damage results from repeated or prolonged exposure of the esophagus lining to acidic contents from the stomach, this occurs as acidic stomach contents flow backward (reflux) into the esophagus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five adults in the U.S. suffers from GERD, and 21 million patients take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) - a group of medications used to reduce stomach acid production – for relief. Unfortunately, 40 percent of those who take PPIs still report symptoms even with the medication.
GERD is not an uncommon problem. “In my time here, I have seen that this is a challenging problem for a lot of my patients,’’ shared Dr. Huy Nguyen, general surgeon at RiverView.
While Dr. Nguyen said the cause of GERD is sometimes a mystery, there are some indications that the weakening of the esophagus over time, family history, and obesity may be culprits, as well as an association with hiatal hernias.
Symptoms other than heartburn include regurgitation, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and dental erosion and bad breath, to name a few. People suffering from GERD may have poor quality of sleep, reduced work productivity, need to make dietary compromises to avoid symptoms, and may have a life-long dependence on medication.
Studies show that 10-15 percent of GERD sufferers will develop Barrett’s Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that occurs when the esophagus is chronically exposed to gastric contents of the stomach. With prolonged acid exposure, normal cells in the esophagus can undergo a genetic change and are then vulnerable to further changes that can lead to cancer.
Individuals with Barrett’s Esophagus have a 40 times greater risk of developing esophageal cancer than those without the condition. According to the American Cancer Society, esophageal cancer has a five-year patient survival rate of about 20 percent.
“Medications do not eliminate GERD,’’ Dr. Nguyen reported. “You need to treat the problem, not just the symptoms.’’
Minimally Invasive LINX® System
Both Dr. Nguyen and fellow RiverView general surgeon Dr. Brett Vibeto now offer a GERD treatment option called the LINX® Reflux Management System.
The LINX® System is designed for adults who have unresolved GERD, even with taking medications to treat the condition, or those concerned about the side effect of long-term medication use for GERD.
LINX® is a medical device implanted during a minimally invasive surgical procedure using small incisions. LINX® uses a small, flexible band of beads designed to help keep the sphincter closed and stop reflux. The beads in the band each have a magnet inside. When looped around the exterior of the esophagus, the magnetic attraction between the beads helps the sphincter remain closed enough to prevent reflux. However, swallowing breaks the magnetic bond, so food and liquids can pass as usual to the stomach. The band can also be removed without damage to the esophagus.
Studies show that after LINX® treatment:
- 85 percent of patients were off daily reflux medications five years after the procedure
- 88 percent of patients reported that bothersome heartburn had been eliminated
- 99 percent of patients eliminated regurgitation
- Patients reported a significant decrease in symptoms of bloating and gas
- Patients reported significant improvement in quality of life
The patient goes home the same day the procedure takes place.
It is important to recognize that GERD is a disease that should not be ignored or self-treated. If you allow GERD to go on for a length of time, not only are you delaying the relief you could receive with treatment, but you are also risking your chances of esophageal cancer.
Video Presentation Available
If you would like to learn more about GERD, treatments, and the LINX® System, Dr. Nguyen recently created the video presentation, GERD and Your Treatment Options. Click here to watch the video.
“We are a one-stop-shop for your reflux disease,’’ Dr. Nguyen stated while explaining that you can have the initial evaluation, assessment, diagnostic procedures, and the LINX® procedure all completed at RiverView.
Talk to your primary care provider if you are interested in the LINX® procedure, or call 218.281.9595 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nguyen or Dr. Vibeto.
Dr. Huy Nguyen
Dr. Brett Vibeto