Heartburn, GERD and Acid Reflux Treatment

The Heartburn Evaluation and Treatment (HEAT) Program

It's Just Heartburn, Right?

If you suffer from frequent heartburn, it's important that you visit your doctor to discuss your discomfort. Continued exposure to stomach acids and other gastric juices causes irritation of the esophagus that can result in:

  • inflammation or ulceration
  • serious medical conditions, including ulcers and narrowing of the esophagus
  • Barrett's esophagus - a condition that could lead to esophageal cancer. 

Click here to read about treatments available at Baptist for Barrett's Esophagus.

What Causes Heartburn?

Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) acts as a one-way valve, enabling food to pass into the stomach. When the LES is not doing its job properly, stomach acid, enzymes and bile back up from the stomach into the esophagus. This produces the burning sensation that is the predominant symptom of Gastroesophageal
Reflux Disease (GERD). Other symptoms may include regurgitation, asthma, coughing, hoarseness, morning sore throat, hypersalivation and frequent clearing of throat.

Occasional heartburn, caused by eating certain "trigger" foods, or stress can be effectively treated with antacids or other over-the-counter medications. Some people, however, suffer from heartburn at least twice a week and do not receive relief from these medications. GERD may be the cause of their discomfort. This uncomfortable condition cannot be treated with over-the-counter medicines

Taking the Heat Out of Heartburn

The H.E.A.T. (Heartburn Evaluation and Treatment) program at Baptist Medical Center offers access, convenience, information, support and compassionate, caring staff members who have one common goal: to reduce the pain and suffering associated with chronic heartburn.

Our mission is to empower patients to choose their best treatment option by providing an accurate diagnosis and comprehensive education in a compassionate, patient-focused environment.

The HEAT program provides a nurse coordinator for who serves as the patient's and physician's single point of contact throughout the entire process, from the first phone call all the way through post-treatment education.

The nurse coordinator educates patients on the specifics of GERD, including management of the disease and all treatment options. Treatment begins only after discussing all appropriate alternatives and after all of the patient's questions have been answered.

Advantages of the Program

The HEAT Program's nurse coordinator provides support and overall coordination of care, including scheduling any necessary appointments and diagnostic procedures. The HEAT coordinator assists patients throughout each step of their prescribed treatment processes, while maintaining constant communication with their physicians.

Physician and Patient Preferences Come First

Existing physician referral patterns and patient preferences are always preserved. Patients and referring physicians are asked which participating HEAT Program physician specialist they would prefer to see. If they have no preference, physicians are selected on a rotating basis using the list of physicians on the HEAT Physician Team.
Timely communication to both patients and physicians throughout the diagnostic and treatment process is a priority.

How Does the Program Work?

One telephone call from a patient or a physician is all it takes to get a free consultation with the nurse coordinator for the HEAT Program.

The nurse coordinator sees patients for a complete initial assessment. Each patient also receives educational materials to help them understand their condition and available treatment options.

After initial assessment, if required, the nurse coordinator schedules appointments with the primary care or specialty physicians for further evaluations.

The nurse coordinator schedules any necessary diagnostic procedures-such as endoscopy, manometry, ambulatory pH, gallbladder ultrasound-at a location most convenient for the patient.

After tests are completed, the nurse coordinator forwards the data to the appropriate physician for interpretation. After the interpreting physician has evaluated the tests, the nurse coordinator assembles the results into a report and sends to the referring physician.

For patients whose treatment includes surgery, the nurse coordinator provides education regarding surgery and any other tests that precede surgery. The day of surgery, the nurse coordinator is available to meet with the patient and family members to answer any questions and provide support.

When a surgical patient is discharged, the nurse coordinator is available to meet with the patient to go over any information the surgeon has provided for post-operative care to make sure the patient understands the instructions. After the patient is back home, the nurse coordinator is also available to answer any questions and make sure recovery is proceeding without complication.

Testing and Diagnosis

A number of tests and procedures are useful in the diagnosis and treatment of GERD. Following are some frequently performed at Baptist:

pH Testing

A small BRAVO capsule is attached in the esophagus to record pH acid levels during a 48-hour period. This test will allow the physician to evaluate and determine the frequency and amount of acid refluxing into the esophagus.

Esophageal Manometry

A small, thin tube is inserted through the nose and measurements of pressure in the esophagus are recorded to determine how well you can swallow..

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

A small, flexible tube is passed through the mouth. This allows the physician to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum for damage. The procedure lasts only a few minutes.

Nissen Fundoplication Laparoscopic Surgery

This surgical procedure can repair a hiatal hernia and tighten the muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is located between the stomach and esophagus. The procedure usually elimates reflux in 95% of patients; however, this procedure may not be suitable for every patient.

For more information

Contact the Baptist Health Line at 1-800-948-6262.

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