A new program offered by Franciscan Health Michigan City provides a multidisciplinary approach with faster diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

“We want to streamline the workup and get data quickly so we can treat the patient appropriately,” said Kevin Burke, DO, a gastroenterologist at the Franciscan Physician Network Woodland Health Center in Michigan City. “We’re really focused on giving them quick and accurate care.”

Patients with heartburn, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation or stomach contents coming into the throat or mouth, persistent vomiting, nausea, chronic cough or hoarseness all could be suffering from GERD.

According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 20% of Americans have GERD.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness that this is a common disease with treatment options,” Dr. Burke said. “We’re trying to improve patient quality of life. We want them to know they don’t have to live with reflux.”

The GERD program offers a variety of testing options, including endoscopy and wireless pH monitoring. With wireless pH monitoring, a wireless capsule is attached to the lower esophagus, where it remains for up to four days before falling off on its own. The capsule, which is roughly the size of a pencil eraser, transmits data on the amount of acid in the esophagus and is a helpful tool in diagnosing GERD.

Burke said weight loss is a major factor in improving GERD. The GERD program works with a multidisciplinary team including bariatric surgeons, dieticians and nutritionists to provide comprehensive care in a community setting.

“If you have symptoms on a regular basis and treat the symptoms with over-the-counter therapies that aren’t effective, we want to correctly diagnose you and get you the proper therapy,” Burke said.

GERD can increase a patient’s risk of esophageal cancer, especially in patients with other risk factors for cancer, including obesity, being Caucasian, a history of smoking and a family history of esophageal cancer. Other complications associated with GERD include narrowing of the esophagus and problems swallowing.

“It impacts quality of life as well when patients simply can’t eat what they used to eat,” Burke said.

David Fumo, MD and Laura Beach, NP and Dr. Burke are leading the new GERD program, which is being offered at the Franciscan Physician Network’s Woodland Health Center, 8865 West 400 North in Michigan City. For more information or to make an appointment, call (219) 872-6566.