Dr. Erich Ernspiker Brings New Surgical Procedure for Acid Reflux Disease to Southwest Virginia

July 10, 2017 | NORTON, Va.

A new surgical procedure available at Mountain View Regional Medical Center and Lonesome Pine Hospital provides a less invasive option and quicker recovery for patients suffering from acid reflux disease.

These Wellmont Health System hospitals in Southwest Virginia are the only two within 100 miles to provide this innovative approach to resolve this medical condition. Erich Ernspiker, M.D., a surgeon with Wellmont Medical Associates, is using his extensive training to perform this minimally invasive procedure.

“Left untreated, acid reflux disease negatively impacts your quality and quantity of life,” Dr. Ernspiker said. “This new procedure gives you a more than 80 percent chance you will never experience heartburn or reflux again. Basically you go from having heartburn and reflux every night to not experiencing it all. Most even go off medication, which saves a lot of money.”

Normally when a person swallows, the circular band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus relaxes, allowing food and liquid into the stomach. If it weakens or relaxes abnormally, stomach acid can flow back into a person’s esophagus.

That condition is generally known as acid reflux disease, which is more formally known as gastroesophageal reflux disease – or GERD.

Symptoms of this disease include recurring heartburn, painful swallowing, sore throat, laryngitis, chronic cough, bad breath, earaches and chest pain. Without proper care, GERD can lead to dehydration, long-term heartburn, unwanted weight loss, hiatal hernia, inflammation, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, esophageal ulcers and cancer.

Individuals might be diagnosed with GERD when symptoms interfere with daily life or occur at least twice a week or a physician sees signs of damage to the esophagus. While some manage to address the situation with daily medication and lifestyle or diet changes, others find relief only through surgery.

Patients who pursue this new surgical option, which is called transoral incisionless fundoplication, at Mountain View Regional and Lonesome Pine experience significantly less recovery time than other procedures and excellent long-term results. Dr. Ernspiker, who has extensive experience with this surgery, enters through the mouth to reconstruct the valve between the esophagus and the stomach, restoring the body’s natural protection against reflux.

“There are no scars,” Dr. Ernspiker said. “You experience fewer adverse effects and complications than with conventional surgery, and it can be revised, if needed.”

Similar laparoscopic surgeries to treat GERD require an incision, and that leads to a much longer recuperation.

Dr. Ernspiker said people facing additional complications for chronic acid reflux can be evaluated for other potential procedures, including laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication. With an incision the size of a breath mint, this procedure tightens the lower esophageal sphincter by wrapping the very top of the stomach around the outside of the lower esophagus.

“By performing this new surgery, Dr. Ernspiker is providing a possible solution for many patients who have dealt with acid reflux disease,” said Dale Clark, president of the two hospitals. “We’re pleased to offer this option for the community because this disease can have some serious consequences if a person is not treated. Adding this surgery to our suite of services is another indicator of the caliber of care we offer at Mountain View Regional and Lonesome Pine.”

Appointments with Dr. Ernspiker are available through a referral from another physician. For more information about him and Wellmont Medical Associates, please visit www.wellmontphysicians.org.