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New procedure for GERD at St. Joseph's

Dr. Dan Smith

St. Joseph's Area Health Services and Innovis Health Park Rapids have partnered up to bring surgery without a scalpel to patients suffering from severe heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Dr. Daniel Smith has received training and is the first surgical expert in the region to make this new medical advancement available to patients.

"A new Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication® (TIF) procedure can significantly improve quality of life for patients suffering from heartburn," said Smith.

"GERD is an anatomical problem which needs an anatomical solution," he said. "Reflux medication such as proton pump inhibitors can help relieve patients' heartburn symptoms but don't solve underlying anatomical problems or prevent further disease progression.

"Even on inhibitors, many patients are still unable to eat the foods they want or have to sleep sitting up to reduce nighttime reflux," he said.

In addition, recent studies have shown that long-term use of inhibitors can lead to inadequate absorption of minerals such as calcium and can result in bone fractures.

Since the mid-1980s, the trend in medicine has been to find less invasive procedures for the treatment of various conditions, Smith said. This eventually led to more common laparoscopic procedures.

"The TIF procedure is the next step in that evolution," he said.

Following the TIF procedure, clinical trials show that most patients can eat and drink foods they avoided for many years. Reflux no longer impacts their life like it previously did.

Smith is the first specialist in the northern Minnesota to be trained on the TIF procedure, and all of the patients he has treated to date have "done well" since treatment, he adds.

The procedure is based on established principles of surgical repair of the antireflux barrier, except that it is "surgery from within" performed transorally (through the mouth). The procedure reduces hiatal hernia and creates a valve between the stomach and esophagus restoring the natural, physiological anatomy to prevent gastroesophageal reflux.

Because the procedure is incisionless, there is reduced pain, reduced recovery and no visible scar.

"Recent studies have shown that the procedure can reduce patients' dependency on medications with 70 percent of patients remaining symptom-free after two years and experiencing a dramatic improvement in their quality of life," said Smith.

"We are very excited to be able to offer our patients the same incredible benefits as more invasive procedures without incisions."