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Expert Care for Upper Digestive Health

Overlake has new specialty services for patients seeking treatment for their digestive health conditions. Led by experienced surgeons specializing in surgeries and procedures for the digestive system, the new services cover conditions of the liver, gallbladder, bile duct and pancreas, and the “foregut,” which is composed of the esophagus and stomach. 

Conditions of the Esophagus and Stomach

Conditions that commonly affect the foregut include acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), cancers of the stomach and esophagus, and swallowing disorders.

“Overlake has developed the most comprehensive foregut surgery program in the Northwest. We manage everything from diseases like acid reflux or achalasia to esophageal cancer, using the most advanced technology and latest techniques,” says Prakash Gatta, MD, a fellowship-trained surgeon who treats esophageal and gastric disease and is director of the Foregut Surgery Program at Overlake. 

Innovative Procedures for Acid Reflux

Acid reflux and GERD (a more severe form of acid reflux) are two conditions that occur when the valve that allows food to pass through to the stomach opens when it’s not supposed to, causing stomach acid to go back into the esophagus. For decades, there was only one type of reflux surgery, Dr. Gatta 
explains. However, it has not been widely utilized because it can cause adverse side effects. In fact, only 20,000 reflux surgeries are done annually, whereas over 40 million Americans suffer from reflux.

“Fortunately, there are new, minimally invasive procedures for reflux with longer-lasting results, and we offer these at Overlake,” adds Dr. Gatta. 

These procedures include transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) and laparoscopic magnetic sphincter augmentation (LINX), which can offer relief with fewer troubling side effects. TIF is an advanced procedure where the valve at the bottom of the esophagus is tightened with a ring of magnets and, as its name suggests, is done without surgery. In comparison to traditional surgery, both procedures offer fewer complications, quicker recovery and less dependency on reflux medications. 

Rising Cases of Esophageal Cancer

Perhaps due to the general reluctance to undergo traditional reflux surgery, there has been a steady rise in a certain type of esophageal cancer related to reflux—esophageal adenocarcinoma. It occurs where the esophagus meets the stomach and can be caused by a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which is due to long-term acid reflux disease. Treating reflux before the disease progresses to Barrett’s esophagus may lower the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Even if Barrett’s esophagus is present, radiofrequency ablation or endoscopic mucosal resection are minimally invasive procedures that help the condition from progressing to esophageal cancer. 

“We deliver care specific to the early diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer. Early diagnosis could include reflux surgery and the new treatment mechanisms we offer,” says Dr. Gatta.

Liver, Gallbladder, Bile Duct and Pancreas

Overlake also offers expert care and advanced treatments for those diagnosed with diseases of the pancreas, liver, gallbladder and bile duct. 

“If it’s a cancer diagnosis, our surgical program works together with medical and radiation oncologists to develop a treatment plan,” says Sung Cho, MD, a surgeon with Overlake Clinics who specializes in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery.

Due to the structures and functions of these organs, surgery on this area of the body can be complicated, and it takes highly specialized surgeons to perform them.

When Bothell resident Tom Underhill was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, it was recommended that he undergo a surgery called the Whipple procedure to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue.

The Whipple procedure is a very extensive and complex operation that requires a surgeon with additional training. In fact, it’s one of the most complicated surgeries a person can have in the abdomen. Part of the stomach, part of the pancreas, gallbladder, bile duct and the first part of the small intestine are removed. The intestinal tract is then rerouted and reconnected.

Tom was recommended to Dr. Cho who is the only surgeon on the Eastside who performs the Whipple procedure. 

“I’m glad I went in and took care of things right away, rather than waiting to see if my symptoms would improve on their own,” says Tom. “I’m very impressed with Dr. Cho and the care I received at Overlake; I felt all along that I have been in the best hands.”

Overlake treats the full spectrum of digestive conditions and diseases, offering advanced treatment options and seamless transitions between specialty providers and fellowship-trained surgeons. Click here to schedule an appointment.

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