Every day it was the same thing – Lynn Stoner would experience a burning, uncomfortable tightness in her chest after eating. She would sometimes wonder if she was having a heart attack.
However, it wasn’t Stoner’s heart that was causing her pain. What she was feeling was part of her family’s history. It was heartburn.
Stoner, a Salem resident, suffered from painful heartburn caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) for what “seemed like forever.” For nearly 20 years, she depended on reflux medications to relieve the pain and burning.
“My family has this problem, so I always thought I had to just deal with it until I saw the information about TIF in the newspaper,” Stoner said.
TIF – Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication – is a simple, minimally invasive procedure that repairs the gastroesophageal valve endoscopically. A malfunctioning valve is the root cause of GERD.
“It should be a one-way valve,” said Daniel Timmerman, DO, board certified general surgeon at SMC. “If it doesn’t work, stomach acid gets up into the esophagus. If acid gets above that valve, it can hurt everything it touches.”
Patients with a “leaky valve” can experience everything from heartburn to chronic cough to esophageal cancer.
Stoner, who was experiencing heartburn, chest pain, and other symptoms of GERD, decided to make an appointment with Dr. Timmerman to find out more about TIF.
She learned that, prior to the procedure, patients must undergo a series of tests such as an X-ray, upper endoscopy, and a pH study to determine how often the esophagus is exposed to stomach acid.
Candidates should be non-smokers with a BMI of less than 35, and have failed medical treatment for reflux.
“Basically, we make a new one-way valve,” Dr. Timmerman said. “During a TIF procedure, we place small fasteners to help keep acid out of the esophagus and in the stomach where it should be.”
TIF works by reinforcing the natural anti-reflux barrier between the esophagus and stomach.
After the procedure, more than 80 percent of patients are able to discontinue daily heartburn medications.
Stoner is now part of that 80 percent. “I feel much better now. I’m no longer on medication. I’m absolutely glad I did it.”
She said the surgery was quick and her recovery time was relatively short because she listened closely to her doctor’s orders.
“You have to be sure to do exactly what Dr. Timmerman says – eat right, no straining because you can mess up what they did. You have to pay attention to the doctor,” she said. “I couldn’t eat much of anything for a while, but I felt fine.”
Stoner has even recommended the procedure to friends with similar pain and discomfort.
To learn more about the TIF procedure, call 856-279-2842 or visit smc.health/services/digestive-health.