Newton-Wellesley Hospital will offer a new heartburn and reflux program to help treat patients.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD — commonly referred to as heartburn or acid reflux — affects about 20% of the U.S. population. If left untreated, it can lead to numerous health issues, including esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus and problems swallowing and breathing.
Fifty-five-year-old Joanne Butler, of Natick, had been suffering from severe acid reflux and heartburn for 20 years but after years of trying numerous medications to relieve her discomfort, she decided it was time to put an end to this serious and disruptive condition. Butler sought the help of Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s heartburn and reflux program.
Under the leadership of Dr. Richard L. Curtis, chief of gastroenterology, Dr. Benjamin Levitzky and Dr. Charudutt Paranjape, chief of general surgery and acute care surgery, the new program will bring together gastroenterologists, surgeons, dietitians, radiologists, physician assistants and nurse navigators — a team of specialists — who collaborate to create a customized treatment plan for each patient to help manage and eliminate heartburn, reflux and other symptoms of GERD.
Butler was diagnosed with paraesophageal hernia, a condition that causes a portion of the stomach to protrude into the chest cavity.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t bend forward without experiencing extreme burning and pressure,” Butler said. “Turns out 75% of my stomach was pushed up into my chest, which, as you can imagine, made it hard to breathe.”
After dietary adjustments and medication control didn’t relieve her severe symptoms, it was determined that minimally invasive surgery was the best option for Butler.
“When we traveled, my husband and son had to give me all of their pillows so that I could prop myself up. I had to constantly sleep in an upright position, but not anymore. I can finally lie down flat without discomfort,” Butler said. “The surgery with Dr. Paranjape has completely changed my life.”
“GERD is an anatomical problem that sometimes needs an anatomical solution,” said Paranjape. “Reflux medication like PPIs (proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Nexium) can help relieve patient’s symptoms but don’t solve the underlying problem or prevent further disease progression.”
Furthermore, in recent studies, prolonged use of antacids has been shown to be linked to inadequate absorption of minerals, chronic kidney disease and dementia. Even on PPIs many patients are still unable to eat the foods they want or are forced to sleep sitting up to reduce nighttime reflux. For some patients, surgery is the only option for relief.
A state-of-the-art option that Newton-Wellesley will offer for the first time is TIF, transoral incisionless fundoplication, an incisionless procedure to repair a faulty esophageal valve responsible for many patients’ GERD symptoms. Paranjape is a leading expert in TIF and NWH is among the first hospitals in Massachusetts to provide this innovative procedure to patients. Paranjape and Levitzky recently, and successfully, performed the first TIF procedure for reflux at Newton-Wellesley.
In those instances when surgery is needed, the team — led by Paranjape — will offer the most advanced surgical solutions including laparoscopic and robotic surgery.
For Butler, it’s now about getting back to doing the things she loved.
“I feel incredible…I lost 25 pounds, stopped all medications, doing lots of walking and can actually sleep lying flat,” said Butler. “It’s amazing how much the return of the little things can have such a big impact.”
For information, call 617-964-4373 or visit http://nwh.org/heartburn.