GERD Took Its Toll for 30 Years. An Advanced Procedure Gives Patient a New Start.

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Frederick Tuerck knew he suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that causes acid reflux to backwash from the stomach, eroding the lining of the esophagus. Over time, this led to frequent pain traveling from his chest to his spine, leaving him increasingly frustrated. Over the course of 30 years, as he served his community working in law enforcement, Tuerck had already eliminated just about everything he loved from his diet. He ‘ate antacids like M&M’s’ but did not know what else could help.

Eventually, a local physician discovered that Tuerck also suffered from a hiatal hernia, meaning part of his stomach had gone through the hiatal orifice of his diaphragm, either causing or exacerbating his GERD. Unfortunately, his physician did not know of any treatments and offered ineffective medication with advice to keep eliminating various foods from his diet.

Upon retirement after 30 years, Tuerck and his wife moved to Orange County, CA where they had hoped to experience life, and not have to make burdensome lifestyle modifications or avoid things that made life enjoyable such as certain foods, drinks and physical activities.

Frustrated by his GERD symptoms, Tuerck decided to research his condition more thoroughly to find a solution. His search led him to Hoag, where he met Phuong Nguyen M.D, Medical Director of Hoag Advanced Endoscopy Center and advanced endoscopist, and Daryl Pearlstein, M.D., who is board-certified and subspecialty-trained in thoracic surgery. They introduced him to the most advanced treatment option for his conditions: a procedure to stop GERD – a transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) – combined with a surgical option to repair his hiatal hernia.

While some hospitals don’t yet offer TIF, Hoag is a leader in the procedure, a fact that Tuerck said gave him confidence.

“They are really great in the way they handle everything. There has never been a time when I texted Dr. Nguyen that she hasn’t gotten back the same day,” he said. “They answer all my questions. Coming from Clark County, Nevada, I’m not used to that. Over there, you call a doctor, and a nurse calls you back. At Hoag, you call a doctor, and the doctor calls you back.”

In April 2021, Tuerck underwent what is called a concomitant TIF procedure or “cTIF” where Dr. Pearlstein first repaired his hiatal hernia, then, in the same anesthesia setting, Dr. Nguyen performed the TIF procedure, under full visualization with an endoscope and entirely from within the stomach, to recreate the gastroesophageal valve that separates the chest and the abdomen.

Studies have found that 90% of TIF patients see a significant reduction in symptoms without the use of daily anti-reflux medication. Tuerck is one of them. While he experienced some nausea and bloating shortly after the surgery, he is quickly on track to returning to a normal life.

Before having the TIF procedure, Tuerck said “It had been tough, sitting with everyone at a table and not being able to eat. Now (after the TIF) I’m back to eating solid foods. I am pretty sure I can enjoy whatever I want, but I’m still nervous, so I try to take it easy with what I’m eating.”

Tuerck said his stressful career might have had a part to play in his hernia and GERD, but thanks to the hernia repair, the TIF procedure, and his excellent medical team, he now feels as though he is able to enjoy this new chapter in his life. “Now we walk every night to keep the blood flowing. We watch what we eat, and my kids are doing it with me,” he said. “They keep me going.”

Studies demonstrate durable and consistent long-term results up to 10 years post TIF, with patients reporting elimination of troublesome regurgitation, all atypical symptoms, and 81% of TIF patients reporting significantly improved overall quality of life scores. Hoag’s multidisciplinary team of digestive health experts collaborate to provide the best patient outcomes and experiences, and are at the forefront of research and treatment options including TIF.

Tuerck shares, “I am grateful for the care I received at Hoag and look forward to eating and drinking the foods and beverages I have always loved in my retirement.”

Reference: Across 11 studies in 568 patients reporting >6 months PPI use. Across 3 studies in 120 patients at >5 years 78% report no daily PPI use.; 2. Across 2 studies in 56 patients reporting >36 months on follow-up endoscopy; 3. Across 10 studies in 545 patients reporting >6 months follow-up on GERD-HRQL (p<0.001)