American Family Children's Hospital

Non-Surgical Treatment Offers Relief from Acid Reflux

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Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication

The condition's name is a mouthful - gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Its sufferers know it better as acid reflux, and they certainly know its symptoms: a burning or tightness in the chest and often the taste of acidic bile in the mouth.


For some, lifestyle changes (no spicy foods after 6pm) and over-the-counter or prescription medications (antacids and acid reduction pills) can effectively control GERD symptoms.


But patients whose reflux symptoms continue to be a bother despite medicines and other measures don't necessarily have to resort to surgery to get relief. Instead, they can turn to a little-known procedure with a name that's also a mouthful - transoral incisionless fundoplication, or TIF.


Unlike the Nissen fundoplication, a more common treatment for reflux, TIF isn't an abdominal surgery. No knives or scalpels are involved.


Acid reflux is the number one gastrointestinal condition for which people seek medical help. As many as 10 percent of Americans battle daily heartburn or acid reflux.


TIF involves inserting a device through the patient's mouth and down into the esophagus, where surgeons use it to form and fasten tissue folds in a 240-degree swoop, creating a valve at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach that can prevent stomach acid from refluxing. General anesthesia is used, and the patient is often monitored overnight. Because no scalpels are used, there's no scarring.


Some patients and even physicians believe that procedures such as Nissen fundoplication have side effects and high failure rates,  and this option may be more palatable.

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TIF carries some side effects-minor discomfort, bloating and gas pains are the most common-but has proven quite effective at relieving GERD symptoms in preliminary studies. Not every patient with GERD, however, is a candidate. Ideal candidates are patients with moderate GERD symptoms and who are on medical therapy, but who don't feel that their symptoms are significant enough to warrant surgery.