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High school athlete says UH's new anesthesia-free procedure changed his life, will help others

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is now offering a state-of-the-art anesthesia-free procedure for those struggling with upper GI and esophageal issues.
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Posted at 6:54 AM, Feb 09, 2023

CLEVELAND — University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is now offering a state-of-the-art anesthesia-free procedure.

It's being called a game changer and a medical breakthrough for those struggling with upper GI and esophageal issues.

UH Rainbow is the first hospital in the Midwest to offer the procedure.

St. Ignatius senior Nick Demers is constantly on the go — juggling school and sports.

The 17-year-old works out nearly every single day, rowing away and perfecting his skills as a varsity crew member with his twin brother.

But those workouts became nearly impossible when what he thought was heartburn or acid reflux at around age 14 turned out to be a chronic immune disease affecting his esophagus.

“They said you have this EoE disease. There’s a food trigger. We can’t just prick test you, you gotta come in every three months, go under for a day," Nick said.

EoE or Eosinophilic Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus caused by a specific white blood cell.

Patients are required to get endoscopies every 1-2 months to check on their digestive tract and make sure there is no scarring or further problems.

Dr. Thomas Sferra, Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition at UH, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, says EoE can be very painful for a patient when eating or working out.

"It is a food allergy involving the esophagus or the food pipe itself. It is not the type of food allergy that we think — like a peanut allergy or anything where you get an immediate anaphylactic or a severe response. This is more of a chronic response over time," Sferra said.

Long term, if left untreated, it could lead to scarring or damage to the esophagus.

Nick was forced to attend regular doctor's appointments and undergo strong anesthesia in order to get those — at times painful — endoscopies.

“Problem with going under is you’re out for a while. Once you have anesthetic, you can’t do that much stuff, and I did sports; at the time I couldn’t do practice," Nick said.

Lo and behold, relief was in sight.

UH Rainbow Babies and Children's introduced the EvoEndo® Single-Use System.

It performs unsedated transnasal endoscopies (TNE).

The state-of-the-art single-use endoscope is paired with virtual reality goggles that the patient wears during the procedure.

“Spray the inside of your mouth with lidocaine, put it in your nose…. Put it under for 15 minutes, and all they’re doing is --there’s a camera at the end of the endoscope. There’s some pics of the inflammation," Demers said.

The system offers a more compact scope and a bigger biopsy channel.

Doctors can now gather the information they need in a faster fashion, and you no longer need to be in an operating room.

"We use a very small device that is very flexible, that goes through the nose. The back of the nose is numb. The throat is numb when we do the procedure," Dr. Sferra said.

Nick says it’s virtually painless, and he's forever grateful he can get back to doing what he loves on the same day.

Patients ages 5 years and older can now get the exam without anesthesia.

Nick is attending college in Alabama for chemical engineering in the fall.

He says this procedure is a lifesaver and will help many young athletes for years to come.