Fort Sanders Health & Lifestyles

Kim Hagan has suffered from heartburn for as long as she can remember, and her pain and discomfort worsened over the past few years. No matter what she ate, the feeling of acid reflux remained constant.

Kim said goodbye to acid reflux thanks to a new minimally invasive procedure performed by Premier general surgeon Dr. Michael Antiporda at Fort Sanders Regional.

“I would refrain from eating after a certain hour, but it wouldn’t matter. I ended up sleeping propped up in the living room sleeper chair most nights,” she recalls. “It burned my throat to lay flat in the bed.”

Hagan recently underwent a newly available anti-reflux procedure called magnetic sphincter augmentation at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville. She was the first person in the East Tennessee region to receive this minimally invasive surgery.

The retired nurse was referred to Premier Surgical Associates general surgeon Michael Antiporda, MD, at Fort Sanders Regional. He specializes in minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery for the stomach and esophagus. Dr. Antiporda has specialized training in diagnosis and medical management of gastrointestinal conditions such as reflux. He is skilled in helping his patients get the right diagnosis and navigate proper treatment.

“Reflux is a consequence of abnormal anatomy in the lower esophageal sphincter,” Dr. Antiporda explains.

Dr. Michael Antiporda, General Surgeon

“When this dysfunction occurs, the lower esophageal sphincter is no longer a one-way valve preventing the stomach contents from coming up the esophagus. When that happens, there are over-the-counter medications available that can suppress the acid, but they do not keep physical movement from acid coming up in severe cases.”

Dr. Antiporda underscored that for people suffering from reflux, surgery is not the first line of defense. Many people find relief with medication or lifestyle and diet changes. He says, “Discussion between a patient and doctor is important, and getting the right diagnosis is key. I like to set goals with my patients with their input to do what’s best for them.

He continues, “Ms. Hagan was an excellent candidate for this procedure because she had experienced years of severe reflux symptoms which medication was no longer helping. Her symptoms were impacting her quality of life, and based on comprehensive testing, we observed the physiology of her esophagus and saw the dysfunction and how this procedure would help solve the issue.”

Breakthrough Technology

Traditionally, patients would undergo acid reflux surgery called  fundoplication. During this operation, the surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus in order to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing stomach acid from coming up the esophagus and throat. This procedure is still used to treat severe reflux.

With magnetic sphincter augmentation, a small device made of metal beads called the LINX Reflux Management System is inserted around the esophagus with a tight enough grip to prevent reflux from coming back up. The beads move apart during swallowing to allow food to pass through.

Dr.Antiporda explains, “Having a device made of titanium will last a patient’s entire life — it won’t stretch, wear out or need replacing over time.” He says the operation has fewer complications than traditional anti-reflux surgery and offers a faster, more comfortable recovery time for patients, with immediate resolution of symptoms. Patients typically
discontinue reflux medication and can eat regular food right away.

“This Changed My Life”

“After several diagnostic tests, I met with Dr. Antiporda and found out about the procedure and said, ‘sign me up!’” Hagan says. “He is so knowledgeable. He was enthusiastic about helping me. He gave me plenty of reading material to take home, which I appreciated. He made sure we were on the same page.”

She received several small laparoscopic incisions and spent one night at Fort Sanders Regional. Hagan, who has had many surgeries, said her post-operative experience was “a breeze,” with no discomfort.

Post-op instructions included recommendations to take small bites and chew food thoroughly. After living with reflux for so long, Hagan feared the symptoms would continue, but she happily reports, “Two months later, I have had zero reflux or heartburn issues. This surgery has been a miracle,” she beams. “This has changed my life for the better.”

Looking Ahead

Dr. Antiporda says that Fort Sanders Regional is committed to offering the most up-to-date treatment for patients. “Medicine isn’t ‘one size fits all.’ Treatment is tailored to each individual patient based on where they are on the spectrum of disease,” he says. “We strive to be on the cutting edge of technology, and offering procedures like this means patients have more options.”

If you suffer from long term acid reflux and considering surgery, you can request an appointment with Dr. Antiporda by calling Premier Fort Sanders at (865) 524-3695 or vising