Charlotte Boyd, a 25-year-old woman from Derbyshire, has been unable to burp naturally since birth. As a result, Charlotte has experienced debilitating bloating that made her appear “heavily pregnant” for most of her life. Alongside severe bloating, Charlotte has also suffered from shortness of breath on a regular basis. On January 8, 2021, Charlotte received life-changing surgery at BMI Alexandra Hospital to help her burp and overcome her painful symptoms.
Charlotte was diagnosed with retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (R-CPD) at BMI Alexandra Hospital in November last year.
R-CPD occurs when your cricopharyngeus muscle (the muscle that sits at the bottom of your throat) is unable to relax and release the excess air that you swallow. The condition leads to symptoms such as the inability to burp, discomfort in your chest and abdomen, painful hiccups, nausea and shortness of breath.
Charlotte’s road to reaching a diagnosis
Charlotte’s GP first diagnosed her painful bloating and inability to burp as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). She was prescribed hyoscine Buscopan to ease her stomach pain. Sadly, Charlotte’s symptoms failed to improve.
Charlotte’s GP then recommended that she followed the FODMAP diet. This involves avoiding foods that are not easily broken down by the gut such as milk, wheat, and certain fruits and vegetables. These foods can trigger IBS symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and nausea. Charlotte’s GP also prescribed her lansoprazole to manage her bloating.
Charlotte received a GP referral to her local ear, nose and throat (ENT) Consultant. However, her symptoms were misdiagnosed as a dietary issue.
Charlotte’s consultation at BMI The Alexandra Hospital
A desperate Charlotte decided to contact Consultant ENT surgeon Mr Yakuba Karagama at BMI The Alexandra Hospital.
The amount of pain I was in every day and working in so much pain. I couldn't do it anymore. It was just horrible every day.
— Charlotte Boyd
On November 6, 2020, she received a consultation with Mr Karagama. A patient examination, which was carried out by Mr Karagama, diagnosed Charlotte with R-CPD. She was booked in to undergo surgery on her pharynx (throat) following the first week of January.
Charlotte’s work life suffered due to R-CPD
Charlotte works as a waitress and a part-time hair stylist. But her R-CPD affected her work life significantly. The crippling pain and bloating Charlotte experienced would cause her immense discomfort while working as a waitress.
As her bloating worsened, Charlotte had to swap her black work trousers for maternity trousers. But her manager has been supportive and understanding of her condition.
Moreover, Charlotte’s inability to burp affected her main hobby, singing. She suffered from shortness of breath due to the trapped gas and pain that she had. This caused her to lose control over her breathing and made it difficult for her to sing.
Charlotte’s R-CPD surgery
The first part of Charlotte’s surgery at BMI The Alexandra Hospital involved a pharyngoscopy. A pharyngoscopy allows a surgeon to look directly into your pharynx (throat) using a rigid tube. Your surgeon will pass this tube through your mouth. During this procedure, you will be provided with an anaesthetic.
The next part of Charlotte’s surgery consisted of a botox injection. This is injected into the cricopharyngeal muscle at the bottom of your throat. The injection will induce a temporary and partial paralysis of the cricopharyngeal muscle and enabling you to burp again. Most patients are able the learn the act of burping by three months.
I would do the surgery again in a heartbeat and I know that sounds weird. But I felt relieved that I was been able to find a Consultant that could help me and receive treatment. Post-surgery, I felt excited about what was to come following my recovery.
— Charlotte Boyd
How has Charlotte’s life changed post-surgery?
Once the anaesthetic had worn off post-surgery and she had eaten, Charlotte was able to go home the same day. She was discharged from BMI The Alexandra Hospital in the evening.
She describes her recovery from surgery as a “smooth” journey and only experienced a sore throat for about two days after surgery. Charlotte can now burp following her surgery. She’s no longer bloated and doesn’t worry have to worry about her clothes fitting her.
The fact that someone has listened to me and I have received treatment has made me feel so much better mentally. My life has completely changed now.
— Charlotte Boyd
If you are struggling with symptoms such as severe bloating or an inability to burp, our Consultant ENTs and gastroenterologists
at Circle Health Group can help provide you with a diagnosis. If you would like to speak to a Consultant, please contact our team at Circle Health Group by calling us on 0808 101 0337 or through our online enquiry form.