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Dinner Reservations Without the Reflux

Feeling Better than Ever after Complex Hernia Surgery

Julia Broome

Julia Broome

Julia Broome loved to go out to dinner with friends. But she paid a heavy price, long after the bill was settled. She’d often feel nauseated, and her acid reflux symptoms would invariably get worse.

At a favorite restaurant one evening last November, things suddenly took a severe turn. “Suddenly, I started feeling weaker and weaker, like I was fading away,” she says. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors initially suspected a heart attack.

But the problem was actually a hiatal hernia, a condition in which part of the stomach squeezes through the opening in the diaphragm, the muscular wall separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. In Julia’s case, the portion of her stomach that had bulged through the opening, or hiatus, was so large that it had started putting pressure on her heart and lungs as it slowly filled with food. Her symptoms slowly resolved as her stomach emptied.“I’d actually known for years that I had a hiatal hernia, but I had no idea it could cause these kinds of issues,” she says.

A Need for Expertise

Julia, a retired nurse, first consulted with a surgeon near her hometown of Aston. “I’d known and worked with this surgeon for years, but he told me that my hernia would require special expertise,” she says.

He referred her to Kenric Murayama, MD, chief of Surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital and a physician in the Shorday Center for Advanced Gastrointestinal Surgery (CAGiS) at Abington Health. CAGiS surgeons, nurse navigators and support staff work as a team and offer procedures for diaphragm hernias, cancers of the digestive system, reflux and other gastrointestinal disorders.

“My hometown surgeon told me that Dr. Murayama was one of a few physicians in the region who could perform the procedure in a minimally invasive way,” Julia says.

“Julia’s hernia was particularly complex because it was so large and very close to her lungs and the major blood vessel leading out of her heart,” says Dr. Murayama, who has been performing this surgery for almost 20 years and receives numerous referrals from fellow surgeons who know of his proficiency with this procedure.

“It’s a technically difficult operation that can be done through a larger incision, but it’s much better for the patient to use a less invasive approach.”

A Smooth Surgery

Using a laparoscope and narrow surgical instruments and working through five small incisions, Dr. Murayama carefully guided Julia’s stomach down through the hiatus, tightened the opening, and anchored the stomach in place by wrapping a section of it around her esophagus.

“I had hardly any pain during the three days I was in the hospital and just some minor discomfort afterwards,” Julia says. She was also pleasantly surprised when her shortness of breath and asthma-like symptoms, which had required daily steroid therapy for years, completely resolved.

Chronic reflux can irritate the airways,” explains Dr. Murayama “Fixing the hernia resolves the cause of the reflux, which clears up these respiratory issues over time, as well.”

Today, Julia is feeling better than she has in years. “Everything went even more smoothly than I had hoped,” she says. “I don’t have to take any asthma or reflux medications – it’s like a miracle. And best of all, I go out to dinner all the time.”

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