TIF procedure relieves pain of acid reflux with no incision

Acid reflux pain relief

From Halloween to Christmas, an abundance of chocolate is all around. In holidays past, Greg Hill had to pass on all of it. He suffered from severe, chronic acid reflux, and for millions of people like him, acid reflux was more than a temporary annoyance.

“Chocolates were just out,” he said. “There was no way I could eat that stuff. It would have put me in the hospital.”

Although he avoided chocolate, he had to eat, and there’s a lot to choose from during the holidays.

“Typically, if I wanted it, I would eat it, but the holidays were really like every other day of the year,” he said. “I would just suffer and deal with it, but I would still stay away from chocolate.”

Hill, an active 47-year-old, first remembers dealing with acid reflux as a teenager. Over the years, it got worse and worse. By adulthood, he was taking two prescription drugs in addition to over-the-counter heartburn medications. On particularly bad days, he would swallow baking soda to relieve the pain.

“It was unbearable. It really truly was,” Hill said. “Even with the medicine.”

Experiencing occasional heartburn is normal, but men and women who experience heartburn more than twice a week may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Mild sufferers experience heartburn and reflux on occasion, usually after a heavy meal or when eating greasy, acidic food.

Patients with severe GERD, like Hill, experience symptoms several times a week or even daily. Reflux made him not want to eat. It also made him nauseated, which made it even harder to eat.  

“It was all the time a constant burning and pain, like with tomato-based stuff – a taco or spaghetti – but chocolate was the big thing,” he said. “In the end, it didn’t matter what I ate.”

Concerned for his health, Hill started researching options online. That’s when he learned about the TIF procedure for (GERD). Dr. Paul Frassinelli offers it at AnMed Health Piedmont Surgical Associates.

GERD is a chronic condition where the gastroesophageal valve allows stomach acid to wash back (or reflux) into the esophagus. The acid irritates the esophagus causing heartburn and damaging the esophagus over time. 

While heartburn medicine relieves the burning, it can’t stop reflux from occurring. TIF (transoral incisionless fundoplication) is an outpatient procedure that repairs the valve that causes reflux. TIF is a minimally invasive procedure that needs no incisions, so it leaves no scars. It has a faster recovery time and fewer complications than conventional reflux surgery.

Dr. Frassinelli has followed the progress of reflux surgeries over the course of his 20-year career. Of all the developments he’s seen, he believes TIF is the most promising.

 “A lot of patients who would have undergone traditional surgery would be good candidates for this less invasive procedure,” Dr. Frassinelli said.

The best candidates for TIF are healthy adults – like Hill – who battle chronic, uncontrolled reflux. For those patients, TIF relieves the pain of acid reflux without exposing them to the risks that come with the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. These drugs, also called PPIs, are the most common medicines to treat acid reflux and are now being linked to serious health problems later in life.

Studies have linked the long-term use of PPIs to osteoporosis, increased risk of dementia and kidney disease, Dr. Frassinelli said. PPIs also interfere with patients’ ability to take some heart medicines. Studies also show that the TIF procedure can reduce patients’ dependency on medication. Seventy-five percent of patients are completely off daily medicine after three years.

With TIF, patients are often in and out of the hospital the same day and can go back to regular activity within a week. For patients like Hill, TIF is changing the quality of everyday life. In addition to eating, former GERD sufferers can enjoy a restful night’s sleep.

“I would have to sit up in a reclined position to sleep because of the burning and stuff coming up into my throat” he said. “I can actually lay down now.”

Just a few weeks out from surgery, he was eating normally and rediscovering what it’s like to have a pain-free meal.

“It was unheard of not to be looking in the cabinet for a medicine to take,” Hill said. “That was a way of life I had to get used to.”

​To learn more about TIF and whether this procedure is right for you, call AnMed Health Piedmont Surgical Associates at 864.224.1111.