With Sarasota Memorial Gastroenterologist Nihar Shah, MD
A big part of being a healthy human is keeping all your various bodily fluids in their proper bags and tubes throughout the day. This goes doubly true for the hydrochloric acid that your stomach makes as part of that internal simmering soup called gastric juice. This acid is supposed to stay down in the stomach where it belongs, but sometimes takes to a bit of wandering, like escaping embers from an angry volcano.
In all, it’s estimated that more than a third of all Americans experience acid reflux symptoms every week, and the incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, has been sharply rising for years. But while common, neither should be dismissed. Both can cause severe discomfort, and, if left untreated, conditions like GERD can even increase risk of certain cancers.
This is why the gastroenterology team treating chronic acid reflux disease, GERD and more at Sarasota Memorial has added two new advanced procedures to its acid-kicking arsenal: Stretta Therapy and The TIF Procedure.
Both offer incision-free solutions and lasting relief for persistent, painful and even drug resistant reflux conditions—with an added bonus.
“These are viable and minimally invasive solutions that really work and rely less on long-term medications,” says gastroenterologist Nihar Shah, MD, who performs both of these advanced procedures at Sarasota Memorial.
What is Stretta Therapy?
Other than acid reflux’s worst nightmare?
Stretta Therapy harnesses radiofrequency energy to treat the muscle of the esophagus itself. Using a very low power, very low temperature radiofrequency energy, Stretta Therapy remodels the tissue of the lower esophageal sphincter and gastric cardia, resulting in improved barrier function and fewer of the random relaxations that cause reflux symptoms. (To revisit a metaphor, this is the boulder stoppering that internal volcano.)
Once performed, Stretta therapy significantly reduces GERD symptoms and allows patients to decrease or even eliminate use of medications.
Why Stretta Therapy?
Where chronic GERD or laryngopharyngeal reflux disorder (LPRD) cannot be treated via medication, Stretta Therapy offers a viable alternative to invasive surgery, and can be performed as a single, non-surgical outpatient procedure. Normal activity can be resumed in a few days, though a soft diet may be prescribed for up to a week. Full benefit of the treatment may take 4-6 months to manifest, but symptom resolution lasts for 4-11 years.
“Stretta therapy is a great alternative solution for our patients who are older or may be poor surgical candidates,” says Dr. Shah. “It is non-invasive and only takes an hour or less, yet can eliminate or significantly reduce symptoms for years at a time.”
Stretta therapy is also effective in controlling any GERD symptoms that may develop after bariatric surgery.
What is The TIF Procedure?
Other than acid reflux’s next worst nightmare?
Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, or the TIF Procedure, is a less invasive approach to fundoplication. I know what you’re thinking: “Thanks, buddy. Let me go look up ‘fundoplication.’”
Beat you to it.
Fundoplication is the surgical procedure commonly used to strengthen the gastroesophageal sphincter responsible for reflux symptoms. It involves enlisting the top part of the stomach—called the fundus—to reinforce the esophageal sphincter that’s supposed to keep all that stomach acid where it belongs.
The TIF Procedure restores this esophageal valve with an incision-free, endoscopic treatment that can be performed in as little as 20-40 minutes. (That’s shorter than most Netflix shows and you won’t even get to the boat in Titanic.) Symptoms are resolved immediately and recovery time is quick, with the vast majority of patients reporting little discomfort post-procedure. Patients will have to observe a strict diet for about six weeks, but relief from reflux symptoms will be much more long-term.
“This is a procedure that should be considered for patients with severe symptoms, who cannot wait six months to see improvement,” says Dr. Shah. “With no incisions, it avoids that painful recovery and the possible complications of traditional reflux surgery, and instead gives patients instant relief.”
As versatile as it is effective, the TIF procedure can also be performed directly following laparoscopic or robotic hiatal hernia repair. This concomitant TIF Procedure, or cTIF, enables physicians to address multiple causes of GERD and acid reflux symptoms at once, alleviating discomfort quicker and with more patient convenience, but with the same long-lasting effects.
To learn more about treating chronic acid reflux conditions at SMH, click here.
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and is not legally allowed to buy fireworks.