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Relief From Reflux Was a Procedure Away

Minimally-invasive surgery gave Christopher Harper a chance to feel better and put acid reflux in the past.

Christopher HarperAfter suffering with severe acid reflux for more than two decades, Harper had a laparoscopic magnetic sphincter augmentation surgery to prevent acid reflux.

Harper, 48, was taking two different acid-reducing prescription medications — one in the morning and one right before bed. Still, he was often jolted awake at night by the burning sensation of acid reflux.

“I’d have to get up in the middle of the night to take more medicine or go eat a piece of bread just to calm it down,” Harper recalls.

Harper, who lives in Carrollton, is thrilled that now he doesn’t need these medications anymore — and he can sleep through the night without being awakened by acid reflux.

According to José Espinel, MD, a surgeon with Carrollton Surgical Group, magnetic sphincter augmentation surgery is much less invasive and causes fewer potential side effects than traditional surgery to treat acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

“This particular procedure, using the LINX Magnetic Sphincter Augmentation device, was approved by the FDA in 2012,” said Dr. Espinel. “Since then, research has shown that 85 percent of patients no longer need daily medication five years after placement, and reflux symptoms are resolved in an overwhelming majority of patients.”

Dr. Espinel, who is certified by the American Board of Surgery and specializes in anti-reflux surgery, performed Harper’s magnetic sphincter augmentation surgery.

According to Dr. Espinel, 99 percent of patients report no bothersome heartburn affecting their sleep, and 97 percent of patients require no change to their diet due to heartburn.

During this innovative laparoscopic procedure, a small implant made of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores is implanted in the esophagus. The magnetic attraction between the beads helps prevent reflux.

“This lets me swallow my food but prevents acid from coming back up,” said Harper.

Harper also had a hiatal hernia repaired during the surgery. A hiatal hernia is when part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm muscle.

Harper was pleased when he found out the surgery would be performed as laparoscopic surgery, rather than through traditional surgery that involves a much larger incision.

“My mother had surgery for the same problems, but she had it done the old-fashioned way,” Harper said. “She had a lot more pain and a longer recovery.”

Christopher Harper on his motorcycleWith just four tiny incisions on his abdomen, Harper said his recovery was swift.

“When I woke up, the first thing they gave me to eat was a hamburger, and I felt great,” he said. “I can even drink orange juice now.”

Before the surgery, he struggled with many foods that gave him acid reflux, especially anything made from citrus, like orange juice or lemonade.

“I knew I couldn’t drink orange juice, but depending on what day it was I never knew exactly what else would bother it,” Harper said.

The only restriction now is that it’s important to chew food thoroughly and not take overly big bites of food, Harper explained. For the first six to eight weeks, he ate smaller meals more frequently to facilitate the healing process.

“Patients love this procedure,” said Dr. Espinel. “Millions of Americans are being treated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and many achieve relief through medicinal treatments such as antacids, histamine-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). But for those who have not found relief through these medications or those who are concerned about the possible health risks of long-term use of these medications, ask about a minimally invasive surgical solution to GERD.”

Harper, who is married and has two daughters — one 11-year-old and one grown — daughter, said he feels great now and is back to his busy life working as an equipment operator for Carroll County. When he’s not operating back hoes and dump trucks for the county, he enjoys riding motorcycles and watching NASCAR.

Click the links to learn more about minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery at Tanner and watch videos on robotic-assisted surgery. To make an appointment with a surgeon at Carrollton Surgical Group, call 678.506.7835.

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