Suffer from GERD? Consider an endoscopy

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You have seen the commercials – we are a nation of heart burn, indigestion, and burning chest pain, all symptoms of acid reflux.

These symptoms sometimes send us running to the emergency room or doctor fearing a heart attack. You breathe a sigh of relief when the diagnosis comes back as ‘just’ indigestion.

Dr. Nirav R. Shah of Digestive Disease Associates explains, “Some 2 percent to 7 percent of the population suffers from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The risk factors include obesity, white male, smoking and others. This disorder occurs when stomach acid and enzymes cause injury to the esophageal lining and over time alter the esophageal cells causing inflammation and genetic changes. When the tissue is no longer esophageal tissue, it becomes intestinal tissue called Barrett’s Esophagus.”

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Two local physicians trained in the latest technology and the specialized treatment for Barrett’s are located at Berks Center for Digestive Health, 1011 Reed Ave., Suite 600, Wyomissing. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. and his colleague Anirudh Masand-Rai, M.D. suggest that if you have GERD symptoms more than three times a week, you should consult your physician. Listen to your body.

Dr. Shah continued, “Of the people who present with GERD, 5 percent to 10 percent will have Barrett’s disease. It is found by undergoing a non-surgical procedure called an endoscopy preformed under mild sedation. Change in tissue color calls for a biopsy, the finding of intestinal cells in the esophagus confirms the diagnosis.”

There are different grades of Barrett’s according to the biopsy and microscopic finding in each patient. These grades range from no dysplasia, to low, to high dysplasia. Although the presence of dysplasia (which refers to abnormalities of a cell making it more cancer-like and disorganized) may raise the risk of cancer; however, it is not considered cancer.

Treatment can range from copious observation and follow-up by the physician, to surgical ablation. HALO ablation technology is a specific procedure where heat energy is applied in a precise and a highly-controlled manner during an endoscopy. It is an outpatient procedure and no incisions are needed.

Studies show in 98.4 percent of patients, this treatment can completely eliminate the diseased tissue without damaging surrounding cells. There is some mild discomfort for several days after the procedure and a follow-up exam in two to three months to access the treatment.

For more information, visit www.ddaberks.com. To schedule an appointment, call 610-288-3229.