Avera Medical Minute: Relief for acid reflux

Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - If you’ve ever had acid reflux, you know some foods can cause more of a problem than others. It can result in heartburn or indigestion.

However, a procedure offered at Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen is offering relief for patients.

The procedure has made a big difference in one woman’s life.

You can now often find Joy Voegele enjoying all her favorite foods.

“I love lemonade — I drink a lot more of that nowadays — and salsa. What a silly thing, but tomatoes are my friend,” said Avera patient, Joy Voegele.

But that wasn’t always the case. Since she was 14 years old, she’s been dealing with reflux.

“I was brought to Aberdeen for an EGD, where they first discovered that I had a hiatal hernia, and then from there, I was put on reflux medication, which I’ve been on ever since,” said Voegele. “Different foods were definitely off the table, at least if I didn’t want to feel horrible after doing it.”

So what exactly is reflux?

“Acid reflux is when contents from your stomach go up into your esophagus and then go all the way up into your mouth. Sometimes people vomit, get regurgitation, chest pain,” said Dr. David Ring with Avera Aberdeen Surgical Associates.

In December, Voegele was able to take action for her reflux. She had what’s called transoral incisionless fundoplication, or TIF.

“A TIF is a way to recreate the valve so things can go down and they can’t come back up. It’s done through the mouth, so it’s put on an endoscope. It’s a device that allows us to create a valve from inside the stomach rather than the outside,” said Ring.

Dr. Ring says the procedure is pretty straightforward, and people have had good results.

“It’s done in the operating room. You’re asleep. It’s under general anesthesia. It’s a device that goes over the top of an endoscope. An endoscope would be like an upper endoscopy — it’s a small camera that goes down your mouth, and we can look in your stomach. So this device just fits right over the top of that. We put that down your mouth and then we use that device to create this wrap from the inside,” said Ring.

“Pretty easy procedure, definitely the easiest I’ve ever endured. It’s a same-day surgery. You’re in and out. I did wake up with a little sore throat, but the TIF itself goes down the throat into the esophagus, so that’s to be understood,” said Voegele.

It’s something that changed Voegele’s life. And now she can enjoy food and her life once again.

“It was something that I lived with for many, many, many years, and then becoming an adult, it was something I continued to deal with just because I didn’t know what my options were,” said Voegele. “I no longer find myself canceling plans because I don’t feel good, so it’s been great.”

There are some dietary restrictions for a couple weeks after you have the procedure. If you have a hiatal hernia along with acid reflux, like Voegele did, you must have that treated with surgery prior to doing the TIF procedure.

To learn more information about TIF, visit avera.org/medicalminute.