Non-invasive surgery an option for acid reflux patients


Acid reflux impacts nearly ten percent of adults, but a Greenfield man has found a solution, but it wasn't easy to come by.

Sheldon Hall looked online, changed doctors, changed medicines and finally, after years of searching, found a fix.

Cycling was time together for Sheldon and his wife, Martha, teaming up on their tandem bike for more than 20 years, before acid reflux put the brakes on their riding.

"There were times, we started out, I would get that reflux and made me feel uncomfortable that I wouldn't ride very long," Sheldon said.

He says the pain in his chest was intense.

"I had heartburn and it would wake me up during the night and when I rode my bike, I would feel it," he said.

He went to three doctors and tried multiple medications over 10 years, but still found no relief.

"My diet was so limited, my wife would complain she didn't know what to fix for dinner because I couldn't eat this, I couldn't eat that, I would want to eat dinner by 5 o'clock so I didn't have food in my stomach when I went to bed," Sheldon said.

Eventually, he was referred to Dr. Jeffrey Heise at the Heartburn Center at Hancock Regional Hospital, where he learned about transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF).

"This procedure kind of fits that gap between medical therapy and traditional reflux surgery, because it's incisionless, it's non-invasive," Heise said.

In the procedure, doctors approach the stomach through the mouth, down the esophagus to the stomach, and use the EsophyX device to create an anti-reflux valve, secured with fasteners.

"It's a lot quicker return to work or activity, has a lot less side effects of traditional reflux procedures," Heise said.

The doctor says a recently-published study of 158 centers found 90 percent of TIF patients were off their acid reflux medication within six months and reported more improvement than patients on meds alone.

"I am shocked everyday at how it's so life-changing. These patients come in and say, 'I couldn't sleep, I was tired all the time, I couldn't eat what I wanted' and now they say their life is completely different," Heise said.

That's certainly the case for the Halls, who now do the distance they want without worry.

"It's just been great. I've gone back to eating a regular diet," Sheldon said. "I don't even think about it."

If you have acid reflux, the risk is 8-9 times greater of developing esophageal cancer, so there is more at stake and you want to get it under control, either with medicine or a surgical option.