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Acid reflux is common problem, solution available in this region

Monday, Aug 1, 2011

Dr. Mark Fox

CROSSVILLE — It could be one of the most common medical problems in the country, and you can get it treated right here in the Upper Cumberland.

“I would say there are vast droves of people,” said Dr. Mark Fox about how many people suffer from chronic acid reflux. The technical term is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Fox, who practices at Cumberland Medical Group in Crossville, is now performing a new surgical procedure which has a 94 percent cure rate and does not require incisions.

It’s called “Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication” and requires special training by the doctor in order to perform the surgery. The procedure was developed in late 2006 and Fox has been doing the surgeries at Cumberland Medical Center since March of this year.

He’s one of just two surgeons in the state who performs the procedure. Nobody in the state’s large metropolitan areas, like Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville, are doing the surgeries. Fox said he’s trying to get the word out about the procedure.

Acid reflux, which Fox believes is at “epidemic” proportions in America, is, in laymen’s terms, the “abnormal return of stomach content.”

In the past, Fox said the only solutions were life-long medication or a large incision in the abdomen. Laparoscopic surgery was later added, but Fox said that still requires smaller incisions and a healing process.

But the new procedure uses advanced technology where an instrument is inserted down the throat. It takes about an hour to perform, he said, and patients are given a general anesthesia. Patients are also required to stay in the hospital 23 hours, mainly so doctors can monitor their condition and make sure there is no vomiting. It is an outpatient procedure. They can return to normal lifestyles in just a few days.

Fox said the procedure is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is peer reviewed by medical professionals. About 6,000 procedures have been performed in the U.S.

To be able to perform the procedure, Fox had to undergo extensive training by EndoGastric Solutions, the company which provides the equipment to do the surgery. Fox began performing the procedure in the Upper Cumberland in March and has already performed around 50 with surgeries scheduled nearly every week.

The procedure forms and fastens tissue folds which help reconstruct the anti-reflux valve at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. Fox said the problem occurs when either the muscles in that area relax or the opening gets larger. In either case, it allows the acid to come back up, which can cause acid reflux.

Here are some symptoms of chronic acid reflux: regurgitation, hoarseness or sore throat, frequent swallowing, asthma or asthma-like symptoms, pain or discomfort in the chest, reflux-related sleep disorders, yellow fluid or stains on pillow after sleep, excessive clearing of throat, persistent cough, burning in the mouth or throat, intolerance of certain foods, bloating, dental erosions or therapy-resistant gum disease or inflammation.

Interestingly, Fox said that 40 of every 100 adults who are diagnosed with asthma have a direct correlation to acid reflux.

“It is a really huge problem,” said Fox.

Fox said GERD is a “mechanical problem” and can’t be cured with antacids. Those, he said, neutralize stomach acids but don’t help strengthen the muscles that lead to GERD. If symptoms persist, Fox said persons need to have “physician input” when dealing with the problem.

Diagnosing the problem is relatively simple, he said. Doctors perform two tests, plus they rely on the history of the patient. He said almost all patients can easily be diagnosed with the two tests. There are a couple of further tests for a small percentage of patients where the diagnosis is a little more complicated.

Presently, Fox said he is “trying to get the word out” about the procedure. He’s done seminars in several area cities and towns and has more scheduled in the future. He said it’s “not a turf issue” because he’s the only one doing the procedure. In fact, he’s also getting the word out to medical professionals all throughout the Upper Cumberland and other areas to let them know this procedure is an option.

Fox said he believes there are many people who have the problem but “accept it as normal.” Many take a lot of antacids, sleep with their heads elevated and drink liquids throughout the night to try to stop the problem.

He had one patient who worked all day long talking to people on the phone. She had a raspy voice which went away after the surgery. She told Fox that many of the people she talked to on a regular basis called her after the surgery and didn’t believe they were talking to the same person. He said 94 percent of patients who have the procedure have remained off of their medications for three years or more.

Fox said the outcomes “have rivaled” the laparoscopic procedure and there is no incisions involved. Most patients tell Fox they “regret not having it done years ago.” They also said they save money by not having to purchase medications.

Another interesting fact involves employers. A recent study revealed for every employee who has GERD, an employer pays $4,000 in medical reimbursements, lost wages and other factors over the lifetime of that person’s time with the employer.

He also said that insurance companies are now recognizing the value of this procedure and many allow it as part of the coverage. Fox said his office works closely with every person when it comes to insurance reimbursements for the patients.

For many people, having the procedure also means they can broaden their diets and that some foods which may have impacted them negatively won’t do that after the surgery.

“It is better for the patients,” said Fox.

He also said the onset of more obesity in America is likely a contributing factor for GERD.

“It makes everything worse,” he said.

Presently in America, one in three people are considered overweight and one in four are considered obese. He said it only makes sense that if a person’s weight goes up, the chances of getting acid reflux goes up, as well.

For Fox, the bottom line is that persons should consider having tests done if they have symptoms associated with GERD. Because this new procedure has such a high success rate, he said people can have their lives changed completely — all for the better.

For more information you can visit and You can call Fox at 931-484-5141.
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Linda Barnes
Saturday, Aug 20, 2011 at 12:13 AM
I am finishing up my second week of liquids/pureed foods. There was a lot of left should/chest pain for up to a week. I am anxiously waiting to crunch some food next week. So glad I had it done, my throat has not burned since the surgery. Good luck to all that have the procedure!!