Patient Stories

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More than Indigestion
By Healthy Life 2007 Winter/Spring



Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of a potentially serious disease called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. Left untreated, GERD can erode the lining of the esophagus and lead to more serious ailments. Few people know that better than Julie Sinatra of Wakefield and her mother, Josephine Diorio, of Peabody, who both suffer from a severe variant of GERD called DGERD, or duodenogastroesophageal reflux disease. Julie Sinatra had symptoms that included a feeling that her throat was closing, as well as chest pain so intense it left her incapacitated. Josephine Diorio, a 67-year-old great-grandmother, often had the feeling that food was sticking in her throat during mealtime. She also began experiencing chest pain that forced her to lay in bed for hours at a time. Both mother and daughter turned to NSMC gastroenterologist Irving Ingraham, M.D., for relief.

He spent nearly 45 minutes with each of them as he does with every new patient. Such a thorough exam is not only crucial for an accurate diagnosis, but goes a long way toward reassuring patients. “ Dr. Ingraham prescribed medications—the most common way to treat GERD—which have been effective in relieving the symptoms. “Ten years ago, these patients would be looking at  surgery. Today, medications have advanced for treating severe reflux to the point where surgery is seldom necessary." NSMC Salem Hospital’s Endoscopy Department offers a wide range of tests for diagnosing GERD. Dr. Ingraham used the test to diagnose and Diorio’s DGERD. Other tests available include swallow X-rays, which show anomalies in the esophageal manometry, which measures pressure in the esophagus.
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