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New minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat acid reflux

November 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
One out of four people experience heartburn on a daily basis, and one out of 10 take acid reflux medication daily. It's a limiting type of lifestyle, but now one local doctor offers a minimally invasive surgical procedure that attacks the problem from the inside out.

"I can't stop coughing and, you know, it's not a good feeling," said 54-year-old Siv Bender.

He thought he had a cold, maybe even asthma. Then doctors told him he had chronic acid reflux or heartburn. Acid escapes his stomach and backs up into his throat.

"Anything with acidity like oranges, even tomatoes, and so forth, and chocolate... It's terrible. It really changes your life," said Bender.

In time, acid and bile can burn the intestinal lining. Bender took the usual prescription medications, but for him they had side effects.

"Now I stop coughing, but I have stomachache, diarrhea and what have you," he said. "So I decided to look for someone that can give me a permanent solution to the problem in a very easy way."

He found Dr. Carson Liu, a gastro-intestinal surgeon who performs a procedure called Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF).

"With this procedure we're recreating the valve in its most natural state; we're going down the mouth to create it. If they do have a sliding hernia along the diaphragm, we fix that with one or two sutures," said Dr. Liu.

About 19 percent of TIF procedures fail in the first month because the sutures pop, so Dr. Liu does an added procedure where he goes through the belly button and also repairs the junction between the esophagus and stomach.

Following the procedure, Bender will be on a two-week liquid diet. While Thanksgiving might be out, he's contemplating the rest of the holidays and beyond.

"I'm really looking forward to a long healthy life without coughing, without acid reflux and all that nonsense," said Bender.

Possible complications include excessive bleeding and bloating, but those are rare. Dr. Liu says patients in his practice have about a 95 percent success rate, and anyone who can tolerate general anesthesia is a good candidate.