Heartburn and acid reflux treatment in Richmond, Virginia

For more than 20 years, our surgeons and gastrointestinal specialists have performed minimally invasive laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery. In this way, we have helped thousands of patients live more comfortable lives.

We have the experience and technology to care for even the most complex acid reflux cases. In fact, Henrico Doctors' Hospital was the first program to:

If you have heartburn, nausea and other symptoms of GERD or acid reflux, contact us today at (804) 545-7987.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is the result of a weak muscle—the lower esophageal sphincter—within the esophagus. When functioning correctly, this muscle acts as a one-way valve that allows food into the stomach but prevents stomach contents (and acid) from coming back up into the esophagus.

People who experience GERD have a lower esophageal sphincter that does not function properly, allowing acid and bile to come back into the esophagus. At our Heartburn and Reflux Center, we offer relief from GERD and its symptoms.

Risk factors for GERD

For some people, GERD creates a serious medical problem. 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. Ask your doctor about acid reflux if you are:

  • 40 years old or older
  • A smoker
  • Diabetic
  • 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)

Symptoms of GERD

Aside from chronic heartburn, GERD may cause other symptoms, such as asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain and a chronic, non-productive dry cough. It is also known to commonly cause acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion and regurgitation.

Other symptoms of GERD may include hiatal hernia (stomach hernia), achalasia (failure of the lower esophageal sphincter to open when swallowing) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).

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 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?

Diagnostic testing for GERD

In addition to the below tests, a doctor may order advanced imaging scans to further diagnose your condition. Our doctors and nurses perform all esophageal manometry and 24-hour pH tests at the Motility and Pelvic Floor Center of Parham Doctors’ Hospital.

To more accurately diagnose your condition, we offer:

  • 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring — using a small tube passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach, the tube remains in place for 24 hours and monitors the amount and frequency of stomach acid that backs up
  • Barium swallow exam — involving 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 — using a temporary capsule in your esophagus to evaluate frequent heartburn and related symptoms over a 48-hour test period
  • Esophageal manometry — passing a tube through your mouth into your esophagus to measure the pressure created by the muscles in your esophagus
  • Esophageal DNA test — DNA test that detects abnormal esophageal cells, such as Barrett’s Esophagus, precancerous cells with dysplasia, and cancer.
  • Endoscopy — involving 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
To provide your healthcare professional with more information about your condition, complete this online GERD questionnaire.

Minimally invasive outpatient treatment options for GERD

If nonsurgical methods of GERD treatment—such as lifestyle modification and medication management—have not been effective, an outpatient procedure may be your best option. In these cases, we offer the following minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to treat GERD:

Heller myotomy for achalasia

This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat achalasia. A surgeon cuts the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing food and liquids to pass to the stomach.

Magnetic implant for reflux management

This is a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure that implants a series of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores 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 patients 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 the 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 is an outpatient procedure that can minimize the risk of developing esophageal cancer if a patient has Barrett’s esophagus as a result of GERD. The procedure involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube) into the esophagus. The endoscope transmits images of the inside of the esophagus, allowing your physician to see which 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. It delivers radiofrequency energy to the muscle between the stomach and esophagus, which improves 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.

Meet our heartburn nurse navigator

Cathy Poyner, RN, BSN, received her undergraduate degree in the field of rehabilitation counseling. She spent 15 years as a case manager before deciding to pursue a career in nursing. She obtained her associate's degree in nursing from Piedmont Virginia Community College and most recently completed her bachelor's degree in nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University.

She will guide patients through the process of evaluating and testing for reflux disease. Her passion for patient education is an asset to patients and their families, as she helps them understand the disease process and treatment options.

To reach our heartburn nurse navigator directly, you can email Cathy Poyner or call (833)-266-4373 (GERD).

See more videos about our heartburn and reflux services