The burning starts soon after a heavy meal or just as you lay down to sleep — like someone lit a fire just behind your breastbone.
About 20 percent of Americans experience chronic acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a condition in which the valve between the esophagus and stomach leaks, allowing acid in the stomach back up into the esophagus.
Pharmacy shelves are filled with products designed to relieve the pain caused by GERD, from medications that coat the esophagus to those that seek to shut down the stomach’s acid factories. Long-time sufferers also learn to stay away from foods that trigger their symptoms, such as chocolate, spicy foods and alcohol. Some even sleep sitting up to prevent acid from seeping up when they lay flat.
“Having acid in your esophagus is not a normal situation,” says Dr. James Givens, a general surgeon at Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists at Murrells Inlet.
The chronic heartburn that results can damage the lining of the esophagus, reduce its ability to work properly and even result in potentially fatal esophageal cancer.
To help people living with GERD, Dr. Givens performs a minimally invasive surgical procedure that can bring long-lasting relief. The procedure is called TIF – Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication – and it is designed to strengthen the valve (known as a sphincter) and keep stomach acid where it belongs.
During the TIF procedure, the patient is put under anesthetic before Dr. Givens inserts a specially designed device down the throat into the upper part of their stomach. From there, he uses the tool to gather stomach tissue around the valve and staple it in place, similar to gathering in a sail or hemming a pair of pants. No incision is necessary.
Learn more about the TIF procedure by contacting Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists at 843-652-8390.
“That effectively re-establishes the pressure of the sphincter,” Dr. Givens says. “The goal of a successful procedure is to stop the symptoms and get the patients off all their medications.”
The procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis, though Dr. Givens typically keeps his patients overnight for observation. Recovery takes about four weeks and requires patients to stick to a diet of mostly liquids and soft foods during that time.
Not for everyone
Dr. Givens says TIF surgery isn’t for everybody.
“Reflux is a spectrum,” he says. “There are some people who only reflux when they drink margaritas. There are others who reflux no matter what they do.”
Pregnancy can cause temporary reflux as the growing fetus compresses the mother’s organs. Obesity also can lead to GERD because of the pressure body fat can place on the internal organs.
There are steps, such as losing weight and adjusting your diet, to take before opting for surgery, he says.
People experiencing GERD who are interested in the TIF procedure can contact Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists at Murrells Inlet for more information and an evaluation, Dr. Givens says. For those who are eligible, it can be a life-changing experience, Dr. Givens adds.
“The international experience with this has been 85 percent of people are effectively cured of their symptoms and off their medications,” he says.
Dr. James Givens
Surgeon, Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists
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Dr. James Givens is a fellowship-trained surgeon who practices at Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists at Murrells Inlet. He is accepting new patients.Learn More
Vanderbilt Medical School, Doctor of Medicine
Georgetown University, General Surgery
Georgetown University Hospital, Thoracic Surgery
Meet the Expert
Dr. James Givens
Call to Schedule
Dr. James Givens is a fellowship-trained surgeon who practices at Tidelands Health Surgical Specialists at Murrells Inlet. He is accepting new patients.