To a lot of people, hemorrhoids are as embarrassing as they are painful. If you think you suffer alone you might be surprised to hear that by age 50, your risk of getting hemorrhoids is one out of two. Joyce was among the unlucky half.
"I had pain, I had throbbing, discomfort, I didn't want to eat at times because I knew that would complicate the problem at times," says Joyce Episcopo, hemorrhoid sufferer.
Hemorrhoids are like varicose veins in the rectum. Anything that increases pressure in the pelvis - like pregnancy or chronic constipation can cause the blood vessels in the rectum to become engorged and protruding. Every year, about 100,000 people undergo surgery to get rid of hemorrhoids. The standard surgery is to cut the enlarged blood vessels out completely. But now, there's something called Procedure for Prolapsed Hemorrhoids, or PPH. Instead of using a scalpel, surgeons use a modified staple gun. It's minimally invasive and a lot less painful than cutting with a scalpel.
Here's how it works. The surgeon moves the protruding hemorrhoid tissue up into its normal position. Then just staples it in place. That also cuts off the blood flow to the hemorrhoids, shrinking the blood vessels.
"What the stapler does is it fixes the hemorrhoid in the upright position - almost a facelift, if you will," explains Dr. Bert Chinn, Colon and Rectal Surgeon.
"Now knowing what I do know about this procedure and how effective it is, I say to myself, why did I suffer so long," says Joyce.
It is a new procedure, but Dr. Chinn says it works in 85 to 90 % of the cases and patients return to normal activity in two to three days instead of the 2 to 3 weeks it could take to recover after standard hemorrhoid surgery. The PPH may be covered by insurance. If not, Dr. Chinn says it could cost up to $2,000.
So, is it available here? The answer is, very soon. Turns out Dr. Eldo Frezza, in the department of surgery at Texas Tech, says he has been investigating this new technique and is already planning to train for this procedure and bring it to Lubbock this coming March.
Dr. Frezza is director of bariatric surgery at Tech and already using staples for stomach stapling, so he says this was a logical transition for him to adopt this new staple procedure for treating hemorrhoids as well.