What in the world is GERD Awareness Month?

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By David Kloss, M.D., FACS

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) Vector graphic illustration.

Did you know that November is GERD Awareness Month? What in the world is that?! Is that like “left-handed Great Aunt Awareness Month”?? Did Hallmark cards make this up? Or perhaps the florists invented GERD Awareness Month, hoping you’d send roses to your best friend who has been complaining bitterly over the lunch hour about their reflux.

Well, I’m not buying a GERD card from Hallmark, and I haven’t seen a sign in front of the florist’s shop yet.

“GERD,” or acid reflux, acid indigestion and esophagitis, is a common problem in America. Thirty to 40 MILLION people suffer from acid reflux. To me, every DAY is GERD awareness. I see three or four GERD patients a day in my surgical practice. So why is it such a big deal?

People who suffer nighttime reflux can’t sleep flat in bed. Spouses have to listen to their partner coughing or vomiting all night long from acid regurgitation. People can’t enjoy a mild salsa on their taco because they get acid reflux. People who have had acid reflux for 20 years might have narrowing at the end of their esophagus from the acid burning their throat and can’t swallow a piece of steak or chicken.

GERD - Linx Patient visiting with the doctor.How many of you reading this are nodding your heads “yes”? Perhaps you know someone who suffers from these issues or you have acid reflux yourself! Many Americans are already taking Prilosec or Zantac (have you seen the commercials on TV?). The antacid pharmaceutical business brings in BIG money!

There certainly are other medical issues that are perhaps more serious and have more life-threatening consequences, but constant acid reflux, or GERD, is no joke. It can cause a narrowing of the esophagus as I mentioned above, it can (rarely) cause cancer, the pills can upset your metabolism and cause thinning of your bones and increases the risk of kidney injury. Acid reflux can cause asthma and/or constant coughing. The burning sensation in the esophagus can cause chest pain, mimicking a heart attack or gallbladder issues. The constant vomiting, food coming back up or burning can interfere with work.

So GERD Awareness Month is also the month where I can make you aware that YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER! A fairly new surgery called LINX is very successful CURING reflux, not just “putting a Band-Aid” over the symptoms like the pills do.GERD - LINX Quarter comparison of the size of the device used to cure acid reflux.

At Tri-County Health Care, we have performed 18 LINX surgeries in the last year, and 100 percent of our patients are off their heartburn pills. The patients are eating Mexican food and sleeping flat in bed with their spouse again! This surgery is highly effective and has significantly fewer side effects than the old Nissen fundoplication surgery that was done 30 years ago. With LINX, we can fix the associated hiatal hernia and put in a small magnetic device to prevent acid reflux. This is all done telescopically with no big incisions and no extended downtime from work. It is outpatient surgery!

So come talk to me now that you are “aware” that November is GERD Awareness Month. I can explain how we evaluate acid reflux, we can go over the symptoms you are having, and we can see if you might be a candidate to cure your acid indigestion!

 

For more information on LINX or to schedule a consultation, call 218-631-7581 or visit TCHC.org/LINX.

 

GERD/LINX surgeon, David Kloss.About the Author: Dr. Kloss is a board-certified general surgeon at Tri-County Health Care. In his free time, Dr. Kloss is an avid marathon runner. His race résumé includes the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., as well as marathons in Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; and Pittsburgh. He also ran the Twin Cities Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the New York City marathon for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kloss also earned Ironman status, having completed the Madison, Wisconsin, Ironman race in 2014. All this running helps Dr. Kloss control his weight so he can eat cookies WHENEVER he wants.

 


Extinguish the burn of acid reflux

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By David Kloss, M.D., FACS

 

You know that painful little burn you get in your chest after you eat? That’s acid reflux. It’s a pretty common occurrence in this country, and sometimes, it can interfere with everyday life.

Tri-County Health Care has advanced by leaps and bounds in our available technology for treating and managing reflux. Our newest gadget, software for esophageal manometry testing, examines how well your esophagus, or food pipe, muscles work.

manometry testing

Dr. Kloss volunteered to let operating room nurses practice the new manometry testing on him.

When we installed this new technology on May 23, I enthusiastically volunteered to let the operating room nurses practice on me to get them prepped and educated for our first patient.

To conduct this test, we gently insert a thin electronic catheter covered in tiny sensors down your throat to measure the pressure in your esophagus. Nurses give you liquid to swallow while the machine records the pressure, represented by colors on our chart.

Purple shows low pressure the moment you swallow. After that, the chart should display red for high pressure as your esophagus contracts to push the liquid into your stomach.

Why is this important? It shows us if the sphincters in your esophagus are working properly. Sphincters are handy muscles at the top and bottom of your esophagus that keep out fluid and saliva. We pay the most attention to the lower sphincter because when that isn’t working properly, it allows stomach acid to splash into your esophagus and causes reflux.

Once we determine you have bad reflux, you could be a candidate for our LINX procedure. LINX involves putting a little ring of magnetic beads around your esophagus by the lower sphincter to tighten it just enough so that stomach acid can’t get in. The magnets are weak enough so that when you swallow, your esophageal muscles can still push food through.

test results

Manometry testing records esophagus pressure using a color chart. Purple is low, and red is high. Operating room nurses check the results of Dr. Kloss’ test.

Manometry testing plays a crucial role in determining if you are even eligible for LINX because esophagus function is the deciding factor. If your esophageal muscles are weak or don’t work properly and you have the LINX procedure, then your muscles won’t be strong enough to open up those magnets and push food through. Then you’ll be really unhappy.

This technology benefits thousands of people in the area because you don’t have to go to the Mayo, Brainerd, Fargo or elsewhere. In fact, TCHC is one of only nine hospitals in the entire state that offers this surgery. We can do it all here and quickly get you on the road to recovery and relief.

To schedule an appointment for a consultation about the LINX procedure, call 218-631-7581. For more information, click here.

 

About the Author: Dr. Kloss is a board-certified general surgeon at Tri-County Health Care. In his free time, Dr. Kloss is an avid marathon runner. His race résumé includes the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., as well as marathons in Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; and Pittsburgh. He also ran the Twin Cities Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the New York City marathon for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kloss also earned Ironman status, having completed the Madison, Wisconsin, Ironman race in 2014. All this running helps Dr. Kloss control his weight so he can eat cookies WHENEVER he wants.