RICHMOND, Va. -- Christie Anton, 54, has waited three decades to finally be able to enjoy her favorite foods.
Anton suffers from Acid Reflux Disease, which causes severe heartburn and regurgitation. Overtime, her condition has grown worse.
"I can't eat fried foods, tomatoes, citrus," Anton said. "I haven't had a glass of orange juice in maybe 30 years."
Twenty-three million people are impacted by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), a condition that can lead to inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus and even esophageal cancer.
While some over-the-counter and prescription medications like Pepcid, Prilosec and Nexium can be used to treat GERD symptoms, a large number of sufferers are unable to find relief and often shuffle medications.
Dr. Clifford Smith, a General Surgeon for Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, said those patients often turn to surgical remedies.
"Unfortunately for about 40 percent of these patients the medications just really don't do enough to get rid of their symptoms completely," Dr. Smith said.
For several years, doctors have performed a fundoplication for GERD symptoms. The surgery involves fixing a hiatal hernia by wrapping the top part of the stomach around the end of the esophagus to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter.
However, many patients, including Anton, are turning to a less invasive laparoscopic procedure known as the Linx Reflux Management System. In that procedure, a titanium band is placed around the esophagus. The band creates a magnetic field across the lower part of the esophagus that helps prevent gastric acids from pushing back up into the esophagus from the stomach.
Smith said his patients have seen promising results from both surgical treatments.
"Ultimately, with either of these procedures we're talking a 90 to 93 percent chance that you're going to be off your meds and improve your quality of life," Dr. Smith said.
Anton said she was counting down the days before her surgery. She said the chance to go off her medications and enjoy her favorite foods again will be life-changing.
"My insurance company will love that," Anton said with a laugh.
In most cases, surgical patients are in the hospital for one night and back to eating regular meals either immediately or just a short time after surgery.
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Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m.