Our Approach

Our Approach

The Heartburn, Reflux & Esophageal Specialty Center at Stamford Health is the region’s first multidisciplinary center just for adult esophagus disorders.  We bring together doctors who specialize in several medical fields. This team works together to treat patients with heartburn, reflux, and all other problems affecting the esophagus.

Our team works to understand your symptoms, find your problem's cause and provide the best treatment. After your first visit, you may need testing to better understand your problem. Depending on your symptoms, you might visit one or more specialists, whom may include:

  1. A Thoracic Surgeon: to evaluate if a surgical procedure is an appropriate treatment option.
  2. A Gastroenterology Consultation: to ensure any digestive system problems happening along the esophagus are treated.
  3. A Pulmonary Evaluation: for any breathing problems like coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath.
  4. An Otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) evaluation: for symptoms like hoarseness or trouble swallowing.

Our multidisciplinary conferences bring together our expert doctors from several medical areas to discuss treatment options and determine the best and safest care for our patients.

While medication may be the right choice for you, some patients benefit from other treatments to correct the cause of their problems, and prevent them from getting worse. 


Why Choose Us

Our team is focused on finding and treating the cause of your heartburn or other esophagus problem—not just the symptoms.

  • Our physicians bring special skills and experience to treating more complex problems. This helps you get an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment.
  • The Center provides coordinated care. Our physicians can all access your medical records electronically, which makes sharing test results and other important information easier to coordinate among your care team. 
  • We refer you to board-certified specialists, saving you the legwork. Board-certification ensures our physicians have strong training and expertise in their fields and stay up to date on best practices and proven treatments that align with your specific needs.
  • The Center provides the most advanced diagnostic testing and treatment technologies to help make diagnosis quicker, more accurate, and often less invasive.
  • Our team specializes in minimally invasive treatments to help reduce complications and make surgeries, hospital stays, and recovery shorter and easier for our patients.
  • Patients who need surgery receive state-of-the-art treatment at Stamford Hospital. The hospital provides the most advanced care and exceptional patient experience in a safe, warm, and welcoming environment.

Symptoms of Heartburn

Symptoms of Heartburn

Many people have heartburn and reflux symptoms like stomach acid washing back into the throat. Others may have coughing, hoarseness, and throat discomfort. Some of these symptoms may seem like just a nuisance. In many cases, relief from heartburn and reflux is more than possible with the right treatment. In some instances, these symptoms may indicate serious diseases which can progress with time if left untreated. Pneumonia, complete inability to swallow, and severe malnutrition are a few possibilities. That's why it's important to have an experienced medical team on your side, every step of the way.

Common symptoms:

  • Frequent heartburn, or a burning feeling in the chest or throat
  • Chest pain
  • Spitting up food or stomach contents into the mouth (regurgitation)

Less common symptoms:

  • A sore throat or cough that doesn't go away
  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the arms, neck, or back
  • Sudden excessive saliva or foaming at the mouth
  • Laryngitis (losing your voice) or a hoarse voice
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Choking or retching at night

Conditions We Treat

Conditions We Treat

You'll work with a team of dedicated physicians, all focused on treating your heartburn, reflux, and other problems of the esophagus. Common conditions we treat include:

Barrett’s Esophagus: Abnormal cells caused by damage to the esophagus lining (from long-term GERD or other diseases).

Diverticulum: A pouch in the lining of the esophagus that can grow in size and cause swallowing problems, throwing up, choking, and other health problems.

Dysphagia: Difficulty swallowing that may be caused by a blockage in the esophagus. It can also be caused by a problem with the valve between the esophagus and stomach, or problems with the muscles of the esophagus.

Esophageal Achalasia: A swallowing problem caused by loss of nerve cells that control the swallowing muscles. As a result, food and liquid cannot easily pass through the esophagus.

Esophageal Cancer: Cancer that starts in the esophagus and can spread to other parts of the body. When discovered early, a cure is possible.

Esophageal Spasms: Muscle cramps in the esophagus, which may cause severe pain and may prevent food or liquid from reaching the stomach.

Esophageal Stricture: A narrowing of the esophagus, often from scar tissue, that may cause choking and swallowing problems.

Esophagitis: Irritation of the lining of the esophagus. This may be caused by long-term acid reflux, some medicines, allergies, or infections. Long-lasting esophagitis can damage the lining of the esophagus, known as Barrett’s Esophagus.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): A problem caused when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus, causing pain and other symptoms. It happens when the valve between the esophagus and stomach opens too often or too long.

Hiatal Hernia: A problem caused when the top part of the stomach pushes up into the chest, getting pinched and letting stomach acid back up into the esophagus. This can cause heartburn, swallowing problems, and other symptoms. In the largest hernias, the entire stomach may be pushed into the chest, causing severe symptoms.

Your Treatment

Your Treatment

Common Tests

If your doctor recommends testing, our team offers a variety of advanced, minimally invasive options:

Bravo pH Probe: Your doctor attaches a small capsule to the esophagus to measure pH levels (acidity). The information is transmitted to a receiver to record the results. You are asked to record symptoms like heartburn while keeping a journal of your activities and food intake.

Endoscopic Ultrasound: Your doctor uses an endoscope (a small, lighted tube with a camera) with a small ultrasound device that uses sound waves to provide high-quality, detailed images of the esophagus.

Esophageal Cancer Screening: Your doctor uses an endoscope to inspect the esophagus and remove small samples to biopsy. Your doctor might also use special dyes or light (spectroscopy) to help show early signs of cancer or cancer risk.

High-Resolution Esophageal Manometry: Your doctor passes a thin tube with pressure sensors into the esophagus to measure how well it is working to move food to the stomach.

Radiology Services: Your doctor may order x-rays to get clearer images of the esophagus, to help diagnose and treat diseases early.

Upper Endoscopy: Your doctor uses an endoscope to examine the lining of the upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract. This may include the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine.

Treatments

Medications are often the first treatment option for esophagus problems. Medications, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) do carry some risks, as well as cost. Current guidelines suggest using medication at the lowest possible dose for the least time possible to minimize risks. Potential risks associated with PPI medications include lower bone density electrolyte and vitamin deficiencies, kidney disease, dementia, and infection.

Some patients may be at risk for the ultimate complication of GERD—esophageal cancer. This remains a relatively rare cancer, but is the fastest growing cancer in incidence (number of new cases per population) in the United States. We care for patients who are at higher risk for the disease, watch carefully for changes and may even reverse damage to the inner lining of the esophagus.

The Center offers the latest procedures performed by the most experienced physicians. Some procedures include minimally-invasive operations for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Minimally-invasive procedures include endoscopic or laparoscopic operations. Some procedures don't require any incisions.

Botox Treatment: Medication is injected into muscles of the esophagus to treat problems like muscle spasms and achalasia (a muscle problem causing reflux of food and acid).

Dilation: A balloon is used to gently stretch (dilate) the narrowest part of the esophagus (a stricture) and widen the opening of the esophagus.

Endoscopic Mucosal Resection: An endoscope is used to remove tissue samples for diagnosis or remove precancerous growths or early-stage cancer from the lining of the esophagus.

Endoscopic Zenker’s Diverticulum Repair: Completely incisionless repair of a blind pouch in the upper esophagus, which causes spitting up and difficulty swallowing.

Laparoscopic Fundoplication: A laparoscope is used to wrap and secure the top part of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus to treat severe reflux and some hiatal hernias.

image of stomach

Laparoscopic Hiatal Hernia Repair: A laparoscope and small incisions on the abdomen are used to repair a hiatal hernia. With hiatal hernia, all of the stomach moves up into the chest, causing reflux and other health problems.

Laparoscopic Esophageal Myotomy: A laparoscope and small incisions on the abdomen are used to cut abnormal muscles controlling the valve between the esophagus and stomach. This is done to treat achalasia, a disorder that causes severe swallowing problems.

Laparoscopic Magnetic Sphincter Augmentation (LINX):
A new surgical procedure uses small incisions on the abdomen to place a small, expandable band of magnetic titanium beads around the esophagus. This strengthens the valve between the esophagus and stomach, preventing reflux and other symptoms.

Radiofrequency Ablation for Barrett’s Mucosa: An endoscope allows a surgeon to use heat or radiofrequency energy to destroy diseased tissue in the lining of the esophagus caused by chronic acid reflux. This condition is known as Barrett's Esophagus

Stenting: A hollow tube (stent ) is placed in the esophagus to keep a blocked area open, to allow better swallowing and prevent breathing in food or liquids.

Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (EsophyX): An endoscopic (incisionless) procedure that can recreate a functional gastroesophageal valve (the valve between the stomach and esophagus) to eliminate or reduce GERD.

Meet Our Team

Meet Our Team

We have assembled a team of physicians, all dedicated to treating patients with heartburn, reflux, and all other problems associated with the esophagus—the muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach. This team is led by, Michael Ebright, MD, Director, Thoracic Surgery at Stamford Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery and Attending Surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center.

Contact Us

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A referral coordinator will streamline and coordinate your care, referring to an appropriate physician for your symptoms.

Call: 203-276-4373 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday

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