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Heartburn and reflux

Heartburn and reflux are conditions that commonly affect the gastrointestinal system. Reflux, also known as acid reflux, occurs when stomach acid travels back up the esophagus and into the mouth. Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest, is a symptom of reflux.

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GERD specialists in Richmond, Virginia

No matter your gastric condition, we're here to help you.

The gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at the Heartburn and Reflux Center of Richmond at Henrico Doctors' Hospital work to ensure that reflux doesn't control your life. We performed the first magnetic sphincter augmentation and laparoscopic acid reflux surgery in the region.

Need additional GERD support?

If you have heartburn or GERD or take medications for these conditions, fill out our patient form to be contacted by our heartburn nurse navigator, who can offer additional information and support. Email Cathy.Adams@hcahealthcare.com or call (804) 545-7987.

If you have heartburn or GERD or take medications for these conditions, fill out our patient form to be contacted by our heartburn nurse navigator, who can offer additional information and support. Email Cathy.Adams@hcahealthcare.com or call (804) 545-7987.

Related specialties

Learn more about our related specialties.

Symptoms of GERD

What's gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? It's an illness where stomach acids flow back into the esophagus. GERD signs can include:

  • Achalasia
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Chronic non-productive dry cough
  • Dysphagia
  • Indigestion
  • Regurgitation
  • Stomach hernia
  • Wheezing

GERD and acid reflux treatments we provide

From diagnosis through resolution of your symptoms, we provide a range of services designed to rejuvenate your digestive wellbeing.

Diagnostic testing for GERD

No matter your symptoms, in addition to the below testing, a doctor may order advanced imaging scans to provide a more comprehensive diagnosis. All esophageal manometry and 24-hour pH testing is performed at the Motility and Pelvic Floor Center of Parham Doctors’ Hospital.

Our spectrum of gastrointestinal diagnostic testing includes:

  • 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring — uses a small tube passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach, where it remains in place for 24 hours, monitoring the amount and frequency of stomach acid that backs up
  • Barium swallow exam — involves a series of X-rays before and after drinking a contrast material (barium) that coats the inside lining of your GI tract, making it more visible on the X-ray
  • Capsule pH study — uses a temporary capsule in your esophagus to evaluate frequent heartburn and related symptoms over a 48-hour test period
  • Endoscopy — involves thin, lighted tubes and a tiny camera to closely examine the lining of the esophagus, allowing your doctor to see irritation or changes to the esophagus
  • Esophageal DNA test — DNA test that detects abnormal esophageal cells, such as Barrett’s esophagus, precancerous cells with dysplasia and cancer
  • Esophageal manometry — passes a tube through your mouth into your esophagus to measure the pressure created by the muscles in your esophagus

Minimally invasive outpatient treatment options for GERD

If nonsurgical treatments such as lifestyle modification and medication management have not proven effective, an outpatient procedure may be your best option. In these cases, we offer a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to treat GERD.

Heller myotomy for achalasia

This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat achalasia, a rare disorder that blocks food and liquid from passing into your stomach from your esophagus. Achalasia is the result of damaged nerves in the esophagus. During this procedure, your surgeon will cut the muscles of your lower esophageal sphincter, allowing food and liquids to effectively pass to the stomach.

Magnetic implant for reflux management

A minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, magnetic implants are a series of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores that are placed around the esophagus just above the stomach. The magnetic attraction between the beads expands the existing esophageal sphincter’s barrier function to prevent reflux. This procedure is reversible and allows you to preserve normal physiological functions, such as belching or vomiting.

Nissen fundoplication

This is a laparoscopic procedure in the abdomen that allows the doctor to directly see and operate on your stomach. This surgery uses small incisions to pass surgical tools into the abdomen to complete the surgery. Your surgeon will view the areas on a screen with images from a small camera in the abdomen.

Radiofrequency ablation for Barrett’s esophagus

Radiofrequency ablation can minimize the risk of developing esophageal cancer if you have Barrett’s esophagus. The procedure takes place in your esophagus and involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube) that then transmits internal images which allow your physician to see which esophageal areas require treatment. An ablation catheter is also inserted into the esophagus to deliver energy to the abnormal tissue. The procedure can minimize or prevent abnormal cells from developing into a cancerous condition.

Radiofrequency therapy for reflux symptoms

Radiofrequency therapy is a nonsurgical way to treat the underlying problems that may cause GERD. Performing this therapy takes about an hour, and it delivers radiofrequency energy to the muscle between the stomach and esophagus, improving the muscle tissue. The result is enhanced barrier function and fewer reflux events.

Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF)

This innovative procedure rebuilds the anti-reflux valve and restores the body’s natural protection against reflux without requiring incisions in your abdomen. TIF is a long-lasting, safe and effective way to treat GERD.

What you should know about GERD

For some people, GERD creates serious medical problems. Severe cases of GERD can lead to esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, strictures and esophageal cancer. That's why it's so important to understand if you are at risk of developing GERD.

Acid reflux vs heartburn

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, and sometimes the two terms can mistakenly be used interchangeably. While heartburn involves mild-to-severe chest pain that is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack, it has nothing to do with the heart. Instead, it takes place in your esophagus, a part of your digestive system. When acid forms in your esophagus — typically after eating — it causes a burning sensation around your breastbone, causing that chest pain.

Acid reflux occurs when the circular muscle that joins your esophagus and stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter) either does not close all the way during swallowing or opens when it is not supposed to. When this occurs, stomach acid flows backwards into your esophagus, creating a burning sensation that can cause a sore throat, cough or sour taste in the mouth.


Risk factors for GERD

GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux, but its key risk factors are mostly avoidable and treatable. Get serious about your condition with your doctor if you are:

  • 40 years old or older
  • Diabetic
  • Frequently smoking
  • In the habit of consuming alcohol, citrus, caffeine, tomato-based foods, chocolate, spicy foods or peppermint
  • Overweight
  • Pregnant
  • Regularly stooping, bending or lifting heavy objects (especially as part of your job or day-to-day life)

When heartburn is a sign of GERD

Heartburn is a common symptom that affects more than 60 million Americans each month. This is critical because heartburn is a key symptom and indicator of GERD, especially if your heartburn:

  • Affects your sleep
  • Has occurred regularly for several years
  • Occurs twice or more a week
  • Persists and becomes more severe

Do you have GERD

If you answer "yes" to two or more of the following questions, ask your doctor more seriously about GERD:

  • Do you experience a bitter acid taste in your mouth?
  • Do you experience an uncomfortable feeling behind the breastbone that seems to be moving upward from the stomach?
  • Do you experience heartburn or acid indigestion two or more times per week?
  • Do you have a burning sensation in the back of your throat?
  • Do you often experience these problems after meals?
  • Do you take antacids or prescription medication to treat heartburn, but still have symptoms or experience only temporary relief?

Learn more about the Heartburn and Reflux Center

One of Richmond's first heartburn and reflux programs, our center takes a unique approach to treatment. Rather than completely relying on medication, we provide you an outlet to have specialized testing performed to truly get to the bottom of issues you may be experiencing. Whether your case calls for medical or surgical treatment, we look to be the model that other facilities follow.
Dr. Clifford Smith

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