February 27, 2019 – A minimally invasive surgery to treat
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and
chronic acid reflux (heartburn) is now available at Southeast Georgia Health System. Board-certified
D. Eli Penn, M.D., has performed nearly 50 Transoral Incisionless Fundoplications, or TIF®,
and performed the first TIF at the Health System’s Brunswick Campus
in October 2018.
“Acid reflux has typically been managed with medications, specifically
Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs, which only reduce the discomfort of reflux
by shutting down acid production in the stomach,” says Penn. “GERD
is actually a mechanical disease, where changes in the lower esophageal
sphincter, also referred to as LES, allow stomach contents to flow upward
into the esophagus. It is also a progressive disease, and patients tend
to need higher doses of medications over time.”
Penn explains that, historically, only two percent of GERD sufferers have
chosen a mechanical (surgical) treatment, and gastroenterologists have
perpetuated this because of the potential side effects of a 50-year-old
surgery, called Nissen fundoplication, that was the only option for correcting
“In 2019, technological advances have led to new procedures—with
fewer side effects—that can fix the LES in many patients in less
aggressive ways than the Nissen. At the same time we are learning that
there may be serious adverse consequences associated with long-term PPI
therapy,” says Penn.
TIF is a mechanical fix for GERD that allows most patients to stop taking
medications altogether. TIF is unique in that it is done without incisions.
During the procedure, Penn uses an endoscope to insert a device called
EsophyX® into the stomach. From there he can reduce a hiatal hernia
and then create a 270-degree flap-valve that restores the body’s
natural barrier against gastroesophageal reflux.
Because the procedure is incisionless, there is reduced pain, reduced recovery
time and no scars. Most patients are kept in the hospital overnight for
observation, but they are able return to their normal activities within
a few days. There are some dietary restrictions that must be followed
for several weeks after the procedure, but since reflux stops immediately
most patients are happy to follow the brief diet.
“Unlike the Nissen fundoplication, patients do not tend to experience
the side effects that they did after a Nissen, such as gas-bloat, dysphagia,
and difficulty belching or vomiting,” explains Penn. “I’ve
seen first-hand how life-changing the TIF procedure can be. It is rewarding
to hear the positive feedback from my patients on how their lives have
dramatically improved after having the TIF procedure.”
With more than a decade of experience under his belt, Penn has the experience
that makes him a trusted and confident gastroenterologist. He provides
expert care for adults experiencing abdominal pain; gastrointestinal bleeding;
diseases of the liver, gallbladder and pancreas; acid reflux; Crohn’s
disease and more.
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Gastroenterology and the Health System’s medical staff in August 2018. He earned
his medical degree and completed an internal medicine residency at the
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. His gastroenterology
fellowship was at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Penn chose the
field of gastroenterology because of the experts who mentored him during
his residency training and fellowship.
To learn more, visit
sghs.org/gastro or to schedule an appointment, call 912-267-0058.