With the many advances in cancer treatment, today’s cancer patients have more and more reasons for hope. Portraits of Hope are the incredible stories of our patients and their journeys of hope and survival. Click on a thumbnail and scroll down to view each story.
T.I.F. – Relieving Acid Reflux Beyond the Purple Pill
Kelly Thompson was ready for a change. Nearly every day, she struggled with persistent heartburn and abdominal pain after eating. The indigestion and discomfort interrupted her sleep, dampened her desire to dine out with family and friends and made much of her daily life miserable.
As a McLeod nurse since 1993, Kelly was aware of the cause of her symptoms. Like more than half the population in the United States, she was experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, or simply “acid reflux.” This condition occurs when acid secreted in the stomach moves up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the middle of the chest, or regurgitation of food in the mouth.
“GERD is so much more than just heartburn,” said Kelly. “For me, it was not certain foods that triggered my pain -- I could have avoided them -- but never knowing when it would flare up was awful. I had been on many medications and treatment regimens, used all of the ‘purple pill’ medications that normally work, but I still had ongoing problems.”
The most common treatment option available for this condition is a class of medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Primary care physicians and gastroenterologists often prescribe PPIs for patients to combat GERD symptoms while enjoying a normal diet. In many cases, patients can access over-the-counter PPIs. For Kelly, the medications helped, but did not bring full relief.
“I consulted Dr. Guy McClary, my primary care physician, and asked if there was something else we could try,” said Kelly. “We discussed having a diagnostic procedure called an EGD (esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy) to determine exactly what was happening. He referred me to Dr. Pannu, and I am forever grateful he did.”
McLeod Advanced Endoscopist and Gastroenterologist Dr. Davinderbir Pannu performed the EGD to confirm that Kelly’s symptoms were truly caused by reflux. Under light anesthesia, Dr. Pannu inserted a specially designed tube, or endoscope, down Kelly’s throat that allows gastroenterologists to look inside the body. Not only did the test confirm Kelly’s diagnosis, it also revealed a small hiatal hernia in her abdomen. This combination of symptoms and diagnoses made Kelly a perfect candidate for a procedure called a Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, or TIF.
“The TIF procedure is a method of reinforcing the gastroesophageal valve mechanism with a minimally-invasive endoscopic procedure,” said Dr. Pannu. “In Kelly’s case, her reflux was caused by a weak lower valve that serves as a natural barrier to acid reflux. TIF is a non-surgical outpatient procedure that allows us to reduce the small hiatal hernia and recreate that barrier.” The positive results of TIF are often a shorter treatment time, less pain and faster recovery than with typical surgical procedures for GERD and hernia.
It is performed using the same endoscope that is used for routine EGD with some modifications.
“I spent one night in the hospital and went home the next day. I really had no pain from the procedure,” said Kelly. “The first few weeks of eating a mostly clear liquid diet was the biggest challenge -- lots of popsicles and chicken broth -- but it was worth it.”
“Many patients who choose this treatment option go home the same day or may, like Kelly, require a short stay in the hospital,” said Dr. Pannu. “Antibiotics or other medicines for symptoms may be prescribed. For the first 24 hours following the procedure, patients can have only clear liquids, followed by a week of soft foods, and then gradually returning to a regular diet. Patients will need to rest and recuperate carefully, but most are back to normal physical activities in a few weeks.”
For Kelly, it was more than a return to normal activities. It was new freedom from the limits acid reflux imposed on her life.
“Just four weeks after the procedure, I was completely off all acid reducing medications and experiencing no pain or symptoms whatsoever,” said Kelly. “Now I sleep through the night with no need for extra pillows to elevate my head and sleep on an incline. I am feeling so much better, and I am optimistic about my outcome.”
As with all medical treatments, not all patients are appropriate for every procedure, but TIF is an extraordinary option for many who suffer from acid reflux. Kelly is grateful the choice is available at McLeod and for the skilled hands who provide the care.
“We are really blessed to have advanced specialists like Dr. Pannu at McLeod Health,” said Kelly. “I have complete confidence in his expertise. Because of him, I can enjoy my life to the fullest.”