At some stage in life, almost everyone will suffer from acid reflux - most commonly heartburn, indigestion or regurgitation from the stomach back into the mouth.
For most people, the infrequent but unpleasant sensation passes in a matter of minutes, thanks to the magic of Gaviscon. But for others, it can be a daily problem turning every meal into an unpleasant and painful experience.
Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) is a chronic condition caused when the lower oesophageal sphincter allows acid and bile to flow back or ‘reflux’ from the stomach into the oesophagus.
It can affect men and women of any age and often gets progressively worse.
Using radiofrequency energy, Stretta remodels the tissues in the oesophagus that cause the symptoms.
Here, Dr Cox answers some questions about the illness and the treatment options available to you.
Q: At what stage would you advise someone with Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease to see their GP and what treatments might they expect to receive?
A: If someone is regularly suffering from heartburn or regurgitation then they need to see their GP – first to check that it isn’t something even more serious such as cancer of the oesophagus. First stage treatment will usually be an anti-acid medication of some kind.
Q: Is there a particular age group or sex that is more affected than others?
A: The more common patients will be aged above 40 years old but this is a condition that can affect anyone, I have done operations on people in their teens and early twenties.
Q: When might surgery become an option?
A: Anyone who has clinically proven reflux and does not want to take lifelong medications should consider anti-reflux surgery. Moreover, some patients may not experience complete control of symptoms with medications anyway. More importantly, there are side effects associated with chronic long term use of such medications.
Q: How does the Stretta system work and how does it differ from other treatments?
A: The radiofrequency has been shown to increase the strength of the lower oesophageal sphincter (valve) and hence improve its function and reduce reflux. It requires the treatment to be applied very accurately so a large hiatal hernia is a contraindication to the procedure.
Q: What does the operation consist of?
A: It is essentially the same as a standard endoscopy but is carried out under general anaesthetic as it takes about 5 minutes to apply the radiofrequency into the correct sites. A scope is passed and measurements are taken and the Stretta balloon is placed and inflated in the appropriate position and the radiofrequency is applied via a set of very sophisticated needles that sense temperature to ensure safe application. This procedure is repeated at multiple levels to achieve the desired effect.
Q: How long does it usually take for the surgery to take effect?
A: We do not expect rapid results but improvement should start at about 6 weeks and maximum improvement can take up to 4 months.
If immediately after surgery you feel nauseated, eat bland foods like mashed potatoes, yoghurt or thin soups but steadily move onto solids.
For the first three weeks, it is advisable to avoid eating bread crusts, pasta, rice or pizza as well as steak and other ‘tough’ meats. If you do want to eat any of these ‘tough’ foods then moisten them in stews or with sauces.
If you suffer from reflux and feel like a consultation with Dr Cox would be of benefit, please call 0121 514 7084, or click here to book an initial consultation online.
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