NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –– As many as 7 million people in the United States are affected by heartburn, also known as acid reflux and GERD.

For CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez, it’s a discomfort he’s been experiencing for decades. In his case, the reflux was so significant, the acid was traveling all the way up into his throat, causing a growth on his vocal cords.

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“We see people with hoarseness, post nasal drip, chronic throat clearing, cough,” said Dr. Jamie Koufman of the Voice Institute of New York, Gomez’s voice and reflux doctor.

After traditional treatments and medications failed to help, Dr. Gomez decided to go under the knife, with hopes of fixing his reflux.

“Essentially what’s happening is you’re getting acid that’s produced in your stomach that’s making its way up into the esophagus,” Dr. Costas Bizekis, Gomez’ surgeon, said.

Gomez said he’s been on a number of different treatments, including proton pump inhibitors, Nexium, Protonix, Prilosec, as well and Pepcid and Zantac — but none of the traditional treatments helped.

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Since medications failed, Gomez’ surgeon, Dr. Bizekis decided to take the next big step — a procedure called fundoplication surgery.

“They are taking the top of the stomach — the fundus, as it’s called — and wrap it around the lower end of the esophagus,” Gomez explained before the procedure.

“And tighten it, tighten it enough that it will prevent the reflux from occurring,” Bizkeas said.

Gomez had the two-hour laparoscopic procedure done at NYU Langone Medical Center. Through five small incisions, Dr. Bizekis maneuvered and sutured Gomez’s stomach into place.

After the surgery, Gomez transitioned from a liquid diet to eating soft foods over a period of several weeks. Now, three months after surgery, Gomez said he’s eating almost normally and the growth on his vocal cords is gone.

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“Next step: chili peppers!” Gomez said.