New diagnostic technology improves relief of digestive distress
“A week after the operation at MMC, I had a birthday party to go to and, to my surprise, I was in for it.”
It was like deja vu for Katherine Weiss, 52, of Colts Neck. Last winter, the mother of three teenagers began experiencing the familiar symptoms of a hiatal hernia: difficulty swallowing, heartburn and regurgitation. “When I ate, the acid would rise, which made it hard to swallow,” Katherine says. “I felt like someone had poured acid down my throat.”
The symptoms had already plagued Katherine for nearly a year, forcing her to take powerful acid-blocking drugs and eventually undergo surgery. This time, however, his condition was made worse by a frightening new symptom: choking on food stuck in his throat.
Fortunately, Katherine turned out to be an ideal candidate for a new technology called the EndoFLIP Impedance Planimetry System, which solved her problem, perhaps for good.
Fight the fire
Katherine’s ordeal began two years ago when she first experienced symptoms of a hiatal hernia. The condition occurs when part of the stomach enters the chest through an opening where the esophagus and stomach meet.
To avoid making her acid reflux worse, Katherine cut out spicy foods and coffee, and even stopped eating out. “It changed my feelings about going out or having a meal,” she says. “It got to the point that everything around the food made me miserable.”
Katherine’s doctor prescribed her a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), a drug that reduces stomach acid production and relieves her discomfort. “But it’s not good to stay on it for a long time,” Katherine says. Research links PPIs to issues like kidney disease, cardiovascular problems, and vitamin deficiencies, so they’re only recommended for short-term use.
In September 2020, Katherine underwent surgery to reattach the herniated stomach and tighten the opening at the bottom of her esophagus. His recovery was difficult due to surgical complications. “I’ve had many other surgeries,” she says, “but this was by far the toughest recovery.”
A few months later, Katherine’s symptoms seemed to be back, and she returned to her doctor for tests. The verdict: “Either the operation failed or the hernia was not repaired properly,” she said.
Katherine’s doctor then referred her to Board-Certified Minimally Invasive General and Robotic Surgeon Dmitry Oleynikov, MD, who joined Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) in 2020 as Director of the Department of Surgery. Nationally recognized expert in gastrointestinal surgery, including complex abdominal wall hernias and revisional bariatric surgery, Dr. Oleynikov offers patients access to the most advanced treatment options, including the latest robotic surgical techniques.
“His esophagus just wasn’t working properly,” says Dr. Oleynikov. “To understand how well the esophagus is working, you need to be able to tell if it’s pushing food into the stomach properly. The valve at the bottom of the esophagus that connects it to the stomach must open to let food in, then close so food doesn’t come back up. If these functions are not working, people feel a lot of discomfort.
Dr. Oleynikov offered to use the EndoFLIP system to diagnose Katherine’s digestive issues and guide a repair. “This technology lets us know what’s going on in the esophagus from moment to moment,” he says. “So if anyone has any issues, you can really identify where the problem is and fix it.”
Using the system, the surgeon guides a balloon mounted on a thin catheter through the throat to the esophagus. Sensors on the balloon measure the pressure and size of the organ, helping doctors better diagnose and treat disorders of the esophagus.
“It gives us information we just couldn’t get our hands on before and helps us be much more specific in the work we do,” says Dr. Oleynikov. Doctors can then use a surgical robot or a conventional laparoscopic procedure to make the necessary repairs.
MMC was among the first two hospitals in New Jersey to introduce EndoFLIP technology, and the Digestive Health Center is one of the few centers in the region with experts trained to use it. The center has performed nearly 100 procedures using EndoFLIP since the hospital acquired the device. So far, “the results have been uniformly excellent,” says Dr. Oleynikov.
Katherine had to think before agreeing to another operation. But Dr Oleynikov reassured her that the system allowed her to adjust the opening from the esophagus to the stomach to the right seal so that she did not choke on food or suffer from reflux. . He also said that because his robotic repair would require fewer and smaller incisions, recovery would be easier.
“And honestly, it really was!” says Katherine, who had her procedure in May 2021. “My recovery from both surgeries has been like night and day. A week after the operation at MMC, I had a birthday party I was going to and, to my surprise, I was up for it.
Free of her digestive symptoms, Katherine returned to the gym in the second post-op week and says she feels like a new woman. “I’m so glad I trusted Dr. Oleynikov,” she says.
To learn more about digestive surgery at Monmouth Medical Center, call 732-923-6070.