By: Jen Russon
Heartburn hurts. Triggered by highly acidic foods, its burning pain felt in the chest and throat can linger for hours, with limited ways to find relief once the person is in the throes of it.
For 60 million Americans, heartburn strikes about once a month, but for 15 million more, it’s a chronic and daily occurrence, pumping billions of dollars into pharmaceutical companies every year.
While these preventive medicines work just fine for some, others are left feeling dependent on something that just isn’t designed to be a long term solution.
Mark Shachner, M.D., medical director at the Broward Health Coral Springs Heartburn Center, said concerns regarding heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) need to be taken seriously.
“GERD is a progressive disease. What starts out as heartburn can lead to severe issues, such as a chronic cough, hoarseness, dental erosion, even cancer,” said Dr. Shachner, who added that if left untreated, recurring episodes can cause severe and irreparable damage to the lining of the esophagus.
Acid reflux symptoms can also mask a more serious health condition that should be diagnosed and treated expediently.
He added a medical professional is the only one qualified to determine what is specifically causing the heartburn. Acid produced in the stomach is only responsible for part of the problem. Because of this, antacids and proton pump inhibitors, which decrease acid production but do not stop reflux, can only partially help.
Relying on the efficacy of different brands of these medications may leave the sufferer with more questions than answers — especially when it comes to the safety of long term use.
The FDA recently requested the removal of brands such as Zantac (Ranitidine), which have been found to increase cancer risk.
Popping a pill, chewing gum, or other home remedies like drinking water with a pinch of baking soda may bring temporary relief. Still, a professional medical evaluation — to check for underlying conditions — is the next logical step.
The newly launched BHCS Heartburn Center is equipped to not only alleviate the pain and discomfort of acid reflux and GERD but diagnose the reason behind every unique case.
Once the patient has a thorough examination, an ideal treatment plan falls into place.
The center already has two decades of experience treating patients with a broad spectrum of digestive issues, with doctors on staff urging heartburn sufferers not to delay getting to the bottom of what’s causing the problem.
Once the appointment is made, patients will discover a one-stop-shop for everything from pH testing to endoscopies. The newest diagnostic tools, which cause much less discomfort than those available elsewhere, are available to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The center also provides CT scans and treatment for hiatal hernias, Barrett’s esophagus, motility disorders, achalasia, and anatomic disorders that interfere with swallowing.
Their most groundbreaking acid-reflux treatment is the LINX surgery, done laparoscopically and with a far shorter recovery time than older methods of esophageal surgery.
In the LINX procedure, a titanium coated magnetic bracelet is placed around the esophageal sphincter, tightening it enough so that acid from the stomach is prevented from traveling upward.
“The LINX procedure is our newest operation to help with reflux,” said Dr. Shachner.
Touted by his peers as ‘the next generation of acid-reflux treatment, Dr. Shachner was the first in Broward County to perform the LINX procedure.
After nearly 30 years of treating patients with acid reflux and GERD, he thinks LINX is among several cutting edge treatments.
“Broward Health patients have access to the latest surgical techniques, including robotic surgery,” Dr. Shachner said.
He talks about the LINX laparoscopic procedure in an interview with South Florida Reporter Kelly Craig. He shows what the bracelet used in LINX looks like, holding up the small device and explaining how relatively easy it is to implant and the kind of candidates who benefit from this non-invasive approach.
For a detailed look at each of the treatments at the new center, be sure to visit the Broward Health Coral Springs heartburn site, where alternatives for surgery are something patients can discuss with their doctor after they make an appointment.
For more information, contact the Heartburn Center at 954-227-GERD (4373). The center is at 3000 Coral Hills Drive.
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