A new Food and Drug Administration approved incisionless fundoplication procedure to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) was performed for the first time in a Department of Defense Military Treatment Facility at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Feb. 2.

The procedure is an alternative for eligible patients looking to relieve symptoms associated with GERD through a non-surgical and possibly non-medicated approach.

"It's a new procedure we've been trained on," said Maj. Michael Goldberg, chief, Gastroenterology, WBAMC, who operated on the patient. "The benefits for the patient include a quicker recovery, no incisions, less of a chance of infection and less post-operation side effects such as pain."

The introduction of the procedure was a relief for Staff Sgt. Mario Talavera who started suffering from GERD in 2008.

"(Nausea) was a daily event. Even if I just drank water, anything," said Talavera.

The disease was impacting Talavera's life both at work and with his family. Talavera underwent a laparoscopic surgical procedure which wrapped his stomach lining completely around his esophagus to prevent the reflux of gastric acid. Unfortunately, after years of relief, the wrap slipped.

Talavera tried different strategies to combat GERD from medication to changing his diet, nothing helped. When WBAMC doctors informed Talavera of the new incisionless procedure he agreed to the treatment.

"They walked me through everything that was going to happen and explained it to a T," said Talavera, a native of Phoenix.

"The difference is, in surgery they need to go in (laparoscopically) and wrap the esophagus from the outside, but with (the new procedure) we can go through the mouth into the stomach, grab the top part of the stomach and fasten it around the esophagus," said Goldberg. "(Talavera) was a good candidate because he continued to have heartburn symptoms and has had a prior surgery that he responded well to."

According to Maj. Christopher Calcagno, gastroenterologist, WBAMC, while there are other procedures available to treat GERD, the new procedure is the most effective evidence-based procedure available for patients who meet certain criteria.

"Before this procedure there were only a few options, one was medications, another was surgery," said Calcagno. "It's another tool in treating reflux for the right patients and a good option."

According to Goldberg, other differences include the ability to belch, where those who have had surgery may not be able to burp anymore and those with the new procedure may still do so.

"There's a whole gap in the middle (of treatment options) where people didn't want either medications or surgery, but still had symptoms that needed to be controlled," said Calcagno. "This procedure fills in that gap."

When asked if he felt any difference with his symptoms a day after the procedure, Talavera responded, "Oh yeah. It's a whole lot of relief."