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  Thursday, May 25, 2017  
   
 

 
Say Goodbye to Persistent Heartburn and Mountains of Pills

 

When the simple act of eating triggers a slow burning tunnel of pain and even reflux, many of us reach for the nearest bottle of pills. And then we try to forget about it - until it happens again. If you’re past counting the number of episodes, now’s the time to make a change.
First, let’s peel back the layers of fact vs. fiction when it comes to the mystery surrounding the symptoms of heartburn and other factors resulting in acid reflux disease, medically referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.)
GERD affects an estimated 20 million Americans. GERD is an equal opportunity disease, anyone can develop GERD at any age and at any time. The symptoms and the medical complications for people suffering from GERD are as individual as our DNA. Since GERD can affect our mouth, our throat, our chest, our stomach and everything in between, its implications range far and wide within our bodies. Without a full medical review, we just don’t know.
What we do know is that there are several ways to treat GERD. Within the last decade, an innovative, safe, long-lasting solution has been developed that works organically with the body to restore it to health.
The breakthrough treatment for GERD is a surgical procedure but it is nothing like what you might expect from surgery. This non-invasive surgery, called TIF (transoral incisionless fundoplication), requires no incisions and leaves no scars.
We discussed the implications of GERD with an experienced, general surgeon, Reginald K. Mason, M.D., who is specially trained in TIF and other surgical options as well as the full range of medical treatments for GERD sufferers. Dr. Mason is board-certified with 14 years of experience as a surgeon. He is in practice with Riverside Surgical Specialists, located in Tappahannock, Virginia.

Q. 
If GERD is so common, why should we be concerned about it?

A. 
GERD severely impacts millions of people and that in itself is reason to seek treatment. GERD can also cause many long-term complications and consequences. Patients with tooth decay have been referred to me by their dentists and it turns out they have GERD. Cardiologists see patients with chest pain and they have GERD. GERD can be the root of ongoing sleeplessness, chronic coughing, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, bleeding, and other conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus that can be precancerous. People need to be evaluated so that we can develop the best course of treatment for them. Although some physicians may talk about the process as breast-conserving surgery, I prefer to refer to it in terms of an overall “therapy” since the surgical procedure itself is virtually always followed up with radiation treatment. If chemotherapy or hormone therapy is part of the treatment plan they generally precede the radiation.

Q. 
We know there are medications, what 
about new options in treating GERD?

A. 
GERD severely impacts millions of people and that in itself is reason to seek treatment. GERD can also cause many long-term complications and consequences. Patients with tooth decay have been referred to me by their dentists and it turns out they have GERD. Cardiologists see patients with chest pain and they have GERD. GERD can be the root of ongoing sleeplessness, chronic coughing, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, bleeding, and other conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus that can be precancerous. People need to be evaluated so that we can develop the best course of treatment for them.

Q. 
We know there are medications, what 
about new options in treating GERD?

A. 
I’m excited about the development of TIF as an innovative approach for treating GERD. TIF is often called a surgery but in many ways, it is far from the typical sense of the term. TIF is a non-invasive approach that restores the patient’s normal anatomy. We enter the body through an existing pathway, the patient’s mouth. We use endoscopy to fasten repairs to the damaged valve that acts as the natural reflux barrier within the body. TIF and other options like it are part of a new trend in treatment options called natural orifice surgery. This is where we use the body’s natural portals to treat diseases. It is the way of the future.

Q. 
Who should consider a TIF procedure to alleviate GERD?

A. 
Typically we recommend TIF to people younger than 70 years of age with a body mass index of less than 30. These are general criteria and each individual is different but this means a lot of people with GERD can be helped by the TIF approach. Fortunately, gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population and most people who develop breast cancer did not inherit an abnormal gene or even have a family history of the disease. If you have multiple family members with breast cancer, especially if it appeared at a younger age, however, you should talk with your doctor about the potential for hereditary cancer and to determine if you are at a higher than normal risk.

Q. 
How long does the TIF procedure take and how long is the recovery?

A. 
We perform the TIF procedure usually in less than an hour in a hospital setting. We require TIF patients to stay overnight, mostly for observation. Typically, patients are pain-free in three to five days. We have them on a special diet for six weeks as they heal. After that, they should be able to eat normally.

Q. 
Why would someone choose TIF over pills 
or other surgery?

A. 
We perform the TIF procedure usually in less than an hour in a hospital setting. We require TIF patients to stay overnight, mostly for observation. Typically, patients are pain-free in three to five days. We have them on a special diet for six weeks as they heal. After that, they should be able to eat normally.

Q. 
Why would someone choose TIF over pills or other surgery?

A. 
Again, we really need to complete a thorough medical review before we can determine if TIF is best course of action to take. If it is, TIF can be a highly effective treatment for GERD. The advantage of TIF over medication is that TIF repairs the weakened parts of the esophagus for a long-term solution. Since TIF is non-invasive and there are no incisions made during a TIF procedure, there is less inherent risk than in some types of surgery. Also, if needed, we can readily make modifications with the TIF approach.

Q. 
Who have you seen benefit from TIF?

A. 
I performed TIF on a 20-year-old patient who had suffered from acid reflux for years. He was embarrassed to eat out at a restaurant as his reflux was so bad he would often vomit. It was limiting his life in many ways but after undergoing the TIF procedure, he has no symptoms. After his first week visit, he told me, “You gave me back me life.” As a doctor, that means a lot to me. 

    Another patient was a woman in mid-life who suffered from severe heartburn that wasn’t resolved with medications. She was desperate for help and we determined that TIF was a good fit for her situation. Four years later, she is still symptom free. So it is gratifying when I see how many patients can fully live their lives because of this leading edge technology.

Q. 
What would you say to someone who has ongoing heartburn or acid reflux?

A. 
It can be overwhelming. They don’t know where to turn for help and often suffer in silence. First, I would tell them to take action as it can lead to serious complications if they don’t. They need to find the right specialist who can make a full and accurate evaluation of their circumstances and then recommend appropriate treatment.

Q. 
What should people with GERD look for in 
a specialist?

A. 
There are several types of medical specialists who can treat GERD. For myself, I like to say I have all the tools in the toolbox ready to help. As a general surgeon, I can offer medical treatments as well as non-invasive treatments and full surgical options. In fact, half of my GERD patients are successfully treated without surgery. Of course, I reserve surgery as an option, but many of my patients 
don’t require it. 
    Another misnomer about a specialized practice is that you have to be referred by your primary care physician to be evaluated. Many private insurance policies cover our services without referrals and we treat Medicare and Medicaid patients as well.
 
Q. 
What’s it like to offer leading-edge care in a small town like Tappahannock?

A. 
I became a doctor to able to help people and to be able to practice this high level of care with the latest technology in Tappahannock is a remarkable experience. We’ve lived here for 10 years and every day I can see the people I’ve helped in town. It’s great to be part of the community. 

To make an appointment with Dr. Mason, contact Riverside Surgical Specialists in Tappahannock at (804) 443-6232.