After Years of Chronic Acid Reflux, Surgery Turned My Life Around
I suffered from chronic heartburn for years. I tried every over-the-counter antacid medication available, but those just weren’t strong enough for me. A friend told me that if I modified my diet by cutting down on acid-producing foods and stopped eating immediately before going to bed, I might find some relief. Those changes helped a little, but my acid reflux persisted.
I discussed the problem with my family doctor, who prescribed an anti-reflux medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). He prescribed esomeprazole, which is sold under the brand name Nexium®, among others. I took 40 mg of esomeprazole daily for nearly eight years, but that only relieved my symptoms somewhat. The underlying gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) never completely went away, and I did not want to have to take medication the rest of my life. I was concerned about the long-term impact and side effects of taking a proton pump inhibitor continuously.
Finding Help for Acid Reflux on Social Media
I began to wonder if some secondary health problem was causing my acid reflux. Whatever the cause, I was sick and tired of dealing with the constant regurgitation despite the medication I was taking. I needed a solution!
I came across a Facebook advertisement for GERD surgery at miVIP Surgery Centers. I decided to check it out for myself, and find out if this procedure could be life changing. In February 2017, I consulted with Dr. Shawn Tsuda, a general surgeon at miVIP Surgery Centers in Las Vegas who specializes in minimally invasive, robotic-assisted treatments for GERD and acid reflux. I knew I wanted a robotic-assisted treatment because it was the latest state-of-the-art technology and was less invasive than traditional open surgeries. Dr. Tsuda told me the procedure could be done on an outpatient basis and that I would not have to be hospitalized for several days, as was typical with traditional GERD surgeries.
Discovering & Treating the Underlying Cause of My Acid Reflux
To figure out the underlying cause of my acid reflux, Dr. Tsuda arranged for diagnostic testing. I underwent an “upper GI” test, which in medical terminology is an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD. Based on my test results and medical history, Dr. Tsuda determined that in addition to GERD, I had pyloric stenosis, which was contributing to the GERD. I hadn’t previously known I had pyloric stenosis, which is when the muscular valve (pylorus) between the stomach and small intestine thickens, blocking food from entering the intestine. I was told this condition can lead to chronic acid reflux or even forceful vomiting, dehydration and weight loss, in some cases.
Dr. Tsuda informed me that I needed two surgeries. An initial procedure would treat the pyloric stenosis, and a second procedure would treat the GERD. Dr. Tsuda said he could perform both procedures using minimally invasive techniques, and he hoped to perform them during a single visit to the miVIP Surgery Center in Las Vegas, but it would depend on how things looked during the initial procedure. If my case turned out to be more complicated, he said he might need to perform the surgeries separately, and I’d have to make two separate visits to miVIP.
Dr. Tsuda explained the initial pyloric stenosis procedure as a pyloromyotomy, which would involve placing a slender scoped instrument through a tiny incision near my navel to reach the pylorus. He’d likely make a second incision to cut through the outside layer of my thickened pylorus muscle or otherwise stretch the pyloric sphincter, opening a channel for food to pass through to the small intestine. Dr. Tsuda said that ideally, he could do the pyloric procedure just prior to performing the LINX procedure—all on the same day.
As it turned out, when I went to miVIP for surgery in March 2017, my situation was more complicated than we had realized. During the initial procedure, Dr. Tsuda found that the area around my pylorus was very scarred and he had to perform an alternative bypass procedure to create a new food channel. I was in surgery for about 3 hours for that procedure. Because he wanted to avoid further complications, Dr. Tsuda decided it best not to perform the GERD procedure immediately following the “bypass.” He wanted me to heal completely from that procedure, then return in a few months for the GERD procedure.
The LINX Acid Reflux Management System
I was fully healed a couple of weeks after the “pyloric bypass,” but Dr. Tsuda wanted to monitor me for a while before proceeding to the GERD procedure. By August 2017 I was ready for my second surgery. Dr. Tsuda had determined the best GERD treatment for me was the LINX® Acid Reflux Management System. The LINX® is a small bracelet-like device that is surgically placed around the sphincter, or upper portion of the stomach. The device is a flexible band comprised of titanium beads with magnetic cores. The magnetic attraction between the beads prevents reflux by stopping the sphincter from opening too much after a person eats.
The LINX® is designed to restore the body’s natural barrier to acid reflux. When done robotically, the LINX procedure takes less than an hour. The shorter procedure time with this minimally invasive approach was best for me.
Getting Help Through My Diagnosis and Double-Treatment Journey
In seeking help for my chronic acid reflux, the last thing I expected was having to undergo two minimally invasive surgeries! The diagnosis was a surprise to me, but Dr. Tsuda explained everything very clearly to help me understand what was causing my symptoms, and what it would require to finally resolve them. It really helped that he was so knowledgeable and that everyone I dealt with at miVIP was terrific. The miVIP team definitely eased me through the journey. From my initial consult with Dr. Tsuda through the diagnostic testing and two treatments at miVIP, the entire team was very helpful and supportive.
It is no small thing to go through surgery, let alone two surgeries! It truly helped that the miVIP staff was so on top of it. I’ll admit, I was nervous, but the miVIP team walked me through the process every step of the way—both times. On the day of my first surgery, I got lots of support from the attending nurse, operating room nurse, and my anesthesiologist. Dr. Tsuda provided a lot of support as well, talking to me prior to surgery and clearly outlining what I should expect. They were all so reassuring and comforting, which kept me calm and relaxed. I went into surgery without any concerns or anxiety. And, even though things were more complicated than expected, I knew I was in good hands. Going back to the same team for my second surgery was a no-brainer.
An Easy Post-Op Recovery
I had been told that following surgery, GERD patients typically remain at the Surgery Center for up to 23 hours for observation. With both my pyloric stenosis surgery and my GERD surgery, I recuperated comfortably in the recovery room for a bit less time than that. The staff took great care of me while I was there and, once Dr. Tsuda released me to go home a few hours later, my recovery at home went very well after both procedures. I had some minor pain the first couple of days after each surgery, but Dr. Tsuda prescribed a short course of painkillers, which took care of that. I returned to work and moderate activity about one week after surgery.
GERD Surgery Was a Life-Changer
It has been about a year since my surgeries and I am doing great now. It’s nice to know that I have been off the daily esomeprazole medication for over a year now. The surgery — in my case, surgeries — definitely changed my life! I can’t thank Dr. Tsuda enough for everything he did for me. I appreciate the time he took with me from the initial consultation to each and every follow up office visit thereafter. He was so attentive and thorough, and never made me feel like number. He never was rushed to get me in or out of the office, which was such a welcome change from my other healthcare experiences.
I have been very impressed by Dr. Tsuda! He articulated everything very clearly each step of the way. He is not only an excellent surgeon, but he is also a true professional as demonstrated by his expert handling of my complicated case and by his patient interactions. I would recommend him and miVIP Surgery Centers to anyone like me who is suffering with acid reflux or GERD and is looking for that alternative, life-changing solution.
This story was submitted by Robert R., miVIP Surgery Centers patient, and was medically reviewed by Shawn Tsuda, MD, as part of miVIP’s Healthy Living Recommendations. Board certified in general surgery with specializations in minimally invasive bariatric surgery, hernia repair and acid reflux or GERD treatment, Dr. Tsuda was the first surgeon in Nevada certified in the LINX Reflux Management System for GERD. To learn more about Dr. Tsuda, read his BIO in our miVIP Physician Directory.