Friday, June 18, 2010

Nissen Fundoplication - one year later

This is not really a post about homesteading, food, or nature...but it is about health. Exactly one year ago today I was in surgery for a complication that had nearly ruined my overall health. I thought I would post the details here in case someone else might be searching for information and experiences that others have had with the Nissen Fundoplication surgery that physically corrects major hiatal hernias. Mine has been a very positive experience overall. Much of what I found on the internet in my early search for solutions was very negative regarding the surgical procedure. Thus, I'm going to offer a detailed look in this post of my own experience hoping it may help someone out there with a serious GERD issue.

Back in the late 1990's I began having a lot of trouble with bronchitis conditions that frequently recurred. Doctors and clinics I would visit would always ask me if I was a smoker - I never have smoked. Often my energy level was very low and sometimes I felt like I was dying. I was finally diagnosed with GERD or Reflux disease - but encouraged to try medicine and other lifestyle adjustments. Let me say when the problem started I was not overweight. I was probably 10 pounds or so overweight midway through the disease...and certainly for folks that are overweight losing the weight may indeed help you or even could correct your problem. Well, since the weight was not the major issue for me I underwent just about every test, diet, special pillows, bed-raising, and medicine I could find of over the past ten years. Nothing really worked...until I started taking Prilosec.

I needed heavy doses of Prilosec, however, and in the beginning it helped. Gradually however after three years the doses were not helping as much, and I was starting to have increasing nerve and bone pain throughout my arms, hands, and toes. It became very painful and my intuition told me it was a result of the Prilosec. About that time studies were being published in medical journals demonstrating these same type of side effects. My dental health had deteriorated greatly and I had many dental problems all of a sudden. I was seldom able to sleep very much during the night, often waking not able to breath with horrible burning in my chest and throat. I was trying several alternative health therapy approaches - but unfortunately these were of no help.

Finally, I threw in the towel and started to consult with surgeons on what might be done. After several nasty exploratory tests the diagnosis was that I had a hiatal hernia at the stomach opening allowing highly acidic juices to flow upward burning the lining of my esophagus constantly. Nothing short of surgery would correct it. The doctors said it was likely I would end up with cancer if nothing was done. They recommended the laproscopic nissen fundoplication procedure that would physically correct the hernia and restructure the stomach opening such that it would operate as close to normal as possible. during the initial consultations I had misread the doctor in thinking he had said I would not be able to eat meat or bread forever after the surgery. Well, that gave me great pause, but I felt this condition would kill me so was willing to do it. But, later I learned he meant no bread or red meat for the first six - eight weeks. That was a relief!

I had to have a preliminary surgery test that was called a pressure test. This to me was more difficult than the surgery itself, but was necessary for the surgeon to plan the exact level of correction. The surgery required five small incisions in my belly. I spent one night in the hospital and was ready to leave at noon the next day. Elizabeth helped me through it all and slept the night on two chairs pushed together and read to me. I couldn't have gotten through it without her. Thank you, Honey.

My diet was liquid for several days, and then proceeded to introduce very mild foods. It took about three weeks before I began to eat "normal" food, and two months before I was going along pretty normally again. I had to learn to chew food very well and also not to drink too fast. The new stomach opening could only handle so much at a time. And if I went to fast the pain was there to slow me down. I ended up losing about 15 pounds, but in the year since I've gained back some of that weight.

One other side effect post-surgery is that people normally cannot burp or vomit. However, my surgeon was incredibly knowledgeable and adept with this type of surgery. He even had it performed on himself. Turns out he restructured the opening just right...maybe just a bit loose. So, I seem to be able to burp fine....which I can tell you it is very painful not to be able to do so. and this occured early on after the surgery. BeanO and Gas-X were my friends.

A year after the surgery, I only have a very slight indigestion feeling and this occurs only once or twice a week, and only a few minutes at a time. Over time I realize that the restructured opening could become loose and the need for GERD medication to control reflux...or worse having the surgery again...might be needed. However, for many patients the surgery seems to work for many years. My quality of life has improved immensly. I gained my energy back and became like a new person. I'm very thankful I met the surgeon and was able to have him perform this correction for me. I am also very thankful for my loving wife who saw me through thick and thin during this entire ordeal.

Hey, if you have a major reflux problem check out the procedure and make sure you get a surgeon with a lot of experience. It can change your life for the better. I can eat chocolate, drink beer, and even stand on my head without any problems now!


Lyle Turner said...

Thanks for sharing that Brent. I like Yoga, but have had a lot of problems due to GERD.

the surgery worries me, but apparently over 90% of people say they would do it again, and I have met a few that say it changed their lives for the better.


Ronda Wilber said...

Just had my procedure done 5-23-14 and went well except waking day 2 barely breathing due to a damaged windpipe but after 3 days in critical care I was able to go home. This is postop day 5 and I'm on liquids and feeling great.I can't wait to be able to eat. Lol but I only seem to have one problem.. besides pooping ALL the time and that's I can't feel if I'm hungry or full... any suggestions