2012-02-09 / Health & Wellness

Innovative procedure provides ‘super’ relief for local resident

Spicy foods no longer out of bounds for those with acid reflux
By Whit Honea
Special to the Acorn


Kevin Webber on Super Bowl Sunday 
JOE WOODS/Acorn Newspapers Kevin Webber on Super Bowl Sunday JOE WOODS/Acorn Newspapers Lifelong Conejo Valley resident Kevin Webber, 48, spent Super Bowl Sunday celebrating his birthday and watching football with friends and family at his mother’s home in Newbury Park.

In addition to the dual nature of the celebration, something else made the day memorable: Webber was enjoying foods that a decade of acid reflux had made nearly impossible for him to eat.

“I’m looking forward to eating my mom’s spaghetti and sausage,” said Webber just before the big day. “It will be the first (Super Bowl) where I don’t have to worry about taking pills and feeling like I can’t digest after eating.”

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), better known as acid reflux, is a condition affecting an estimated 25 million Americans, according to board-certified gastroenterologist Gilbert Simoni, M.D., founder and director of Advanced GI Inc. in Thousand Oaks. In patients with GERD, a valve between the stomach and esophagus malfunctions and allows the contents of the stomach to flow backward into the esophagus.


GAME TIME—Newbury Park resident Kevin Webber digs into hot wings and chips with Bill and Michelle Page at a Super Bowl party on Sunday. A recent surgery to correct acid reflux allowed Webber to enjoy the Super Bowl snacks without experiencing pain. 
JOE WOODS/Acorn Newspapers GAME TIME—Newbury Park resident Kevin Webber digs into hot wings and chips with Bill and Michelle Page at a Super Bowl party on Sunday. A recent surgery to correct acid reflux allowed Webber to enjoy the Super Bowl snacks without experiencing pain. JOE WOODS/Acorn Newspapers GERD can lead to a serious condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, a change in the lining of the esophagus that can cause esophageal cancer. Testing is required to determine if a patient has GERD.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications for acid reflux, such as Mylanta, Zantac and Aciphex, do not repair the defective valve but make the condition less painful by reducing acid in the stomach and the burning feeling caused by reflux, Simoni said.

Many patients are not aware of the risks associated with prolonged use of acid reflux blockers. The FDA published a warning that they can lead to bone loss.

“I could not function without medication. It was just too painful and . . . uncomfortable if I was off it more than a few days. It felt as if I was eroding my esophagus,” Webber said.

New procedure

The change in Webber’s condition is the result of his undergoing an innovative procedure called TIF (transoral incisionless fundoplication), where the physician, in this case Dr. Simoni, goes through the patient’s mouth and reshapes the valve at the base of the esophagus without making any incisions.

Simoni performed the first TIF in Ventura County at Los Robles Hospital in 2009, one year after the FDA approved the procedure.

“After many years of research, we may finally have a real answer to a real problem,” Dr. Simoni said.

The TIF procedure can cost several thousand dollars but is generally covered by medical insurance. Still, it isn’t for everyone.

Patients have to show that their condition is serious enough to warrant the procedure, which comes with the same risks associated with other types of surgery.

“There are a lot of tests to go through,” Webber said.

According to the website http:// gerdhelp.com, patients may go home either the same day of the surgery or the following day, depending upon their specific situation and the recommendations of their healthcare providers.

Most patients return to work and normal activities within a few days, the website states.

Patients should expect to experience some discomfort in their stomach, chest, nose and throat for three to seven days after the procedure, and are usually asked to restrict physical activity for the first week and are given dietary guidelines to maximize success while tissue heals.

Symptoms of acid reflux

The most common symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn, bloating, regurgitation, a bad taste in the mouth and general stomach discomfort—often following the consumption of spicy or highly acidic foods.

Due to symptoms that don’t directly point to acid reflux, such as a persistent dry cough, adultonset asthma, chronic bad breath, post-nasal drip or, in some cases, no symptoms at all, many people are unaware they have GERD.

“I know there are a lot of people who suffer with this condition, and it’s my hope they will now know there is a real solution for acid reflux,” Webber said. “After going through the TIF procedure I no longer need any more pills, and I can eat what I want, when I want . . . and when you love food as much as I do, that is a big deal.”

Webber’s wife, Carie, agrees wholeheartedly.

“During meal time, we don’t have to worry anymore about what foods can cause him problems due to acid reflux,” she said.

It was all spaghetti and smiles for Webber on Super Bowl Sunday—the Green Bay Packer fan was even rooting for the eventual winner, the New York Giants. Still, there’s one member of Webber’s family that isn’t thrilled about the change in his diet.

“My dog Samson is bummed because he doesn’t get as many table treats,” Webber said.

For more information on Advanced GI Inc., Dr. Simoni, GERD, and the TIF procedure, visit www.agimedical.com. For more information on esophageal cancer, visit www.ecan.org.

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