Health reporter, BBC News
Ellie Banks loves her food, but for the last decade she has had chronic acid reflux (severe heartburn) and has had to watch what she eats.
Pizza has been out, so have spicy foods and even wine.
"I haven’t been able to eat so many things," said the press officer, from Stoke.
Then at the end of last year Ellie was given surgery called a laparoscopic fundoplication.
The operation involves wrapping a piece of the stomach around the oesophagus to create a new valve to prevent acid backing up from the stomach.
It used to be done by opening up the chest cavity, but with the advent of keyhole surgery it is now a lot safer."My life was put on hold"
There have been calls for the operation to be more widely available.
Ellie says the operation has transformed her life.
"I could just not get to sleep and kept waking up all night in absolute agony," she said.
"If I had eaten pizza or had had wine or anything like that it would hurt like hell and I would bring the food up. It was really quite vile.
"I saw loads of different doctors for about 10 years until they actually sent me to see a specialist.
"They gave me some tablets, but said there was nothing they could do about it.
"Because I was quite skinny and it is usually larger people who get it, they did not think I had the same problem.
"I cut down my drinking and started eating more healthily, but it did not make any difference.
"I did not want to be dependent on the tablets and did not like putting them into my body every day."
But Ellie said things moved very quickly when she went to see her new GP.
"He sent me for tests and then they put a tube down my nose and every time I ate I had to press a button to measure the acid.
"They said the acid was horrendous and put me in for the operation
"It was completely life changing."
NHS research by the University of Aberdeen recently found good results following surgery.
A year after keyhole surgery, only 14% of patients were still taking medication, compared with 90% of those treated with drugs alone.HEARTBURN
- A painful and burning sensation in the oesophagus, just below the breastbone usually associated with regurgitation of gastric acid
- It is a very common condition with 20% of the population experiencing it at some point in their lives
- Those at the more severe end of the spectrum can end up taking tablets for the rest of their lives
A trial of 800 patients suggested that the surgery should now be done more routinely in patients with chronic acid reflux.
The results so far suggest the procedure, although expensive at £2,000 per patient, is cost-effective because reflux sufferers no longer have to take medication and their quality of life improves.
But the researches are continuing to follow the patients for five years to check the benefits are long-term.
Professor Roger Jones, head of general practice at King’s College London and chair of the Primary Care Gastroenterology Society, said he had a number of patients contacting him recently and asking for the surgery, but he said some GPs still knew little about the technique.
"I think it does not always cross GPs’ minds that hospitals are doing this," he said.
"But it is quite an important message to get out to GPs that patients who require long-term treatment with severe symptoms this is something that they ought to consider."
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