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The Heartburn Center at St. Joseph's Health

Heartburn Center and Services


 The Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health can provide any patient with a central one-stop location for the treatment of heartburn. The Heartburn Center is the right place for any individual with heartburn who believes that they can be served by a streamlined location. We can help those who have occasional discomfort or a more significant array of symptoms and those who may need surgery for symptom relief. The Heartburn Center has a complete team of physicians and other experts to diagnose and treat your condition as well as discuss and support your decisions. This team includes a gastroenterologist, robotics surgeon, bariatric surgeon, pulmonologist, dietician, and psychology care provider. Everyone works together to address the disease, not just the symptoms. Should you be a candidate for surgery, The Heartburn Center staff can discuss a complete range of options including the LINX implant procedure.


The Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health is the first dedicated and comprehensive heartburn treatment center in the greater Syracuse region. This new Heartburn Center is located at Specialty Services inside the Hospital. The Heartburn Center's team works with you to help you understand your disease and the reasons behind your symptoms. We can recommend a full range of treatment options to manage or eliminate symptoms so that you can enjoy your life fully. Should you need surgery, you will be surrounded by a team of experts in their field who are committed to your well-being and who will work in concert with other specialists and primary care providers as part of a coordinated treatment plan. 

In the News: First Heartburn Center Opens in Syracuse

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Surgical Team

General Surgeons:

 Atul Maini, M.D.

 Balasubramaniam Sivakumar, M.D.

Gastroenterologists:

Borys Buniak, M.D.

John Sun, D.O.

 

Conditions

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)

This happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. Stomach acid that touches the lining of your esophagus can cause heartburn, also called acid indigestion. This happens occasionally to almost everyone.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Symptoms such as heartburn that occur more than twice a week for several weeks could be a sign of GERD. This can lead to more serious conditions over time if left untreated. GERD patients who are overweight, pregnant, smoke, take certain medications, or have a genetic predisposition may be more likely to develop GERD. Anyone may develop GERD for unknown reasons as well.

Complications of GERD

GERD can lead to other conditions, especially if left untreated. Some complications include inflammation in the esophagus, permanent difficulty swallowing, irritation of the throat and lungs, respiratory problems, and possibly cancer.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach moves into the chest through a small natural opening in the diaphragm. This can cause frequent regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, and refractory heartburn. On rare occasions it may result in a loss of blood supply to the stomach, if most of the stomach herniates into the chest.

Barrett’s Esophagus

This is a condition where tissue similar to the intestine lining replaces the normal esophageal lining. GERD increases your chances of developing this condition. There are a number of different treatments for Barrett’s Esophagus. If left untreated, this condition may lead to esophageal cancer.

Patient being treated for heartburn

Treatments

Lifestyle Modifications

For many cases of GERD, simple changes to daily life are all that is needed to treat the disease. These changes can include daily dosages of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Additionally, your doctor may recommend reducing or eliminating smoking, alcohol consumption, acidic or fatty foods, and carbonated beverages. Weight loss may be another recommendation as well as alteration of eating or sleeping patterns.

Medication Therapy

Medication Therapy is often the next step if the lifestyle changes are not effective in treating GERD symptoms. Over-the-counter antacids and other medications can neutralize stomach acids and help reduce acid production. Prescription medications may be effective in promoting healing and relieving symptoms but are not indicated for a long-term treatment plan.

Surgery

This step is usually reserved for those whose symptoms are not effectively treated by either lifestyle changes or medication. Sometimes this may be the first option if there is a physiological defect such as a hiatal hernia. While the most common surgical option is a fundoplication surgery, at The Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health we offer the state-of-the-art LINX implant as well. Surgical treatment is usually laparoscopic/robotic (small incision) with a rapid recovery to full activity.

Procedures

Upper Endoscopy

Also known as EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), an Upper Endoscopy is a procedure used to view the esophagus, stomach, and part of the small bowel. This examination looks for signs of reflux, peptic ulcer disease, or tumors. It is one method in a patient’s treatment plan to determine the suitability of surgery. EGD is more accurate than X-rays for identifying inflammation, detecting abnormal growths such as ulcers, tumors, or cancer, and for examining the inside of the upper digestive system.

Barium Upper GI

This is a series of X-ray films that show the digestive tract. A liquid barium solution is swallowed while several X-ray films are taken. This temporarily coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, making the outline of these organs visible on the X-ray film. The X-rays show how the solution is traveling from the mouth to the esophagus and into the stomach. This is performed to visualize the presence of reflux, hiatal hernia or obstruction.

Esophageal pH Monitoring

This procedure is preformed to measure the reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus that occurs in GERD (pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution). It is used to evaluate for GERD and to determine how medication is working to prevent acid reflux. It is also helpful in evaluating typical symptoms that do not respond to medications. Two different types of pH monitoring can be used. Your gastroenterologist will discuss which one is best for you.

Esophageal Manometry

This is a test used to identify problems with movement and pressure in the esophagus that may lead to problems like heartburn. It measures the strength and muscle coordination of the esophagus during swallowing. The information obtained from this test can help doctors to identify esophageal problems. This test will allow the doctor to examine the muscular valve connecting the esophagus with the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, as a factor in determining suitability for a LINX implant.

Hiatal Hernia Repair and Fundoplication

Surgical repair of a hiatal hernia involves tightening the diaphragm opening and wrapping the upper stomach around the esophagus using stitches in both areas. This prevents acids and food from flowing into the esophagus. An available surgical alternative is fundoplication, where the doctor attaches small clips to the point where the esophagus meets the stomach. This can have the same effect of keeping foods and acids out of the esophagus.

LINX Procedure

The LINX Implant Procedure is a surgical treatment for heartburn and/or GERD. It is a small device about the size of a quarter made of permanent magnets surrounded by titanium beads. The LINX implant helps to strengthen and reinforce the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. This stops acid from entering the esophagus easily. LINX is implanted through a minimally invasive laparoscopic/robotic procedure around the esophagus where it connects to the stomach. It is designed to restore your natural reflux. LINX is removable should the need arise for other treatment options. LINX is a treatment intended for patients diagnosed with GERD who continue to have symptoms even while taking medication. There is no alteration of the stomach necessary. At this time, The Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health is the only facility in Central New York to offer this state of the art procedure.

LINX is constructed so that full normal physiological function is preserved. After a brief healing period, a patient can return to their normal diet as soon as this can be tolerated. Typical physical activity can be resumed quickly, usually within a few days. Additionally, LINX is designed to preserve the ability to belch or vomit if necessary. It is removable should the need arise for other treatment options. The LINX device will not affect airport security. Two models of the device will allow you to have an MRI. You should discuss the MRI scanning options with you doctor while you are considering this surgical treatment.

Resource Line
Phone: 1-866-HRT-BURN
Toll Free: 1-888-STJOES1 (1-888-785-6371)