GERD Awareness Week

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is an advocate of GERD Awareness Week. The goal of GERD Awareness Week is to educate people on reflux symptoms and treatment options as we begin the holiday season. Festive holiday parties mean decadent food – which can also bring on GERD.

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) affects 30-40 million Americans each year. Also known as acid reflux, GERD symptoms can include:

  • Regurgitation (fluid or food coming up into the esophagus or back of the throat)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Disruptive sleep due to above symptoms

GERD occurs when stomach contents come up into the esophagus where they don’t belong. The lower esophageal sphincter or valve serves as a barrier to digestive juices; however, in GERD patients this valve has either shortened or weakened, causing patients to experience reflux.

How can GERD be treated?
The first line of treatment for GERD is acid suppression therapy, or medications that neutralize stomach acid. These medications can help take away the “sting” of the reflux or heartburn, but often do not prevent regurgitation. Acid suppression medications are available both by prescription and over-the-counter. Your gastroenterologist will help adjust your medicine dosage to the severity of your symptoms.

Additionally, lifestyle changes are recommended for patients suffering from GERD. Avoiding foods that cause symptoms, steering clear of large meals before bedtime and losing weight all can have a positive impact on reflux symptoms.

For a majority of people, acid suppression medication and lifestyle changes are adequate for managing their GERD. However, about 20-30 percent of patients remain symptomatic despite these measures, even increasing both their dosage and frequency of medication.

For these patients, surgical intervention may be an option.

“I feel like I won the lottery”
For Northern Kentucky resident Patricia Pillion, severe acid reflux was affecting every aspect of her life – work, eating, even sleep.

“I’d wake up in the middle of the night and food would be coming up. I’d sleep propped up by three pillows just to try to keep everything down,” says Patricia. “If my husband and I wanted to go out to dinner, I’d have to double up on my medication to try to enjoy my meal – and sometimes that wouldn’t even work.”

Patricia was referred to Dr. Valerie Williams, who is the only surgeon in the region to offer LINX, a minimally invasive procedure for patients with GERD.

“Patricia was a great candidate for LINX,” says Dr. Williams. “She had persistent symptoms despite medications and would really benefit from a long-term solution.”

The LINX device is the size of a quarter and designed to take the place of a patient’s reflux barrier. The bracelet-shaped circle of magnetic titanium beads opens and closes to let food down, but prevents stomach acid from coming back up into the esophagus. The LINX is implanted laparoscopically, a surgical procedure which uses long instruments and a camera. It begins working immediately.

“As soon as I woke up from the surgery, I felt 100 percent better,” says Patricia. “It’s been a year and a half since my LINX surgery and I haven’t had one symptom or needed to take any medication. I can eat whatever I want – my spicy food is back! I feel like I won the lottery.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare can help
If you are struggling with reflux symptoms, we can help. Make an appointment with a St. Elizabeth Gastroenterologist by calling (859) 331-6566.

For more information about the LINX procedure offered at St. Elizabeth Healthcare or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Williams, please call (859) 301-2465.