For almost a decade, Gary Hackney suffered from painfully debilitating dry mouth caused by treatment for stage IV thyroid cancer. He was taking more than 20 medications per day to treat dry mouth until he met with Carol Bier-Laning, MD, a head and neck surgeon at Loyola Medicine.
"I could hardly talk and I always had to have something to drink because my mouth was completely dry. And I mean extremely dry," said Mr. Hackney, of McHenry, Illinois. "It was incredibly painful."
Dr. Bier-Laning knew she could help. "Mr. Hackney had previously had a surgery to remove his thyroid. He then had radioactive iodine treatments which caused him to suffer from an incredibly dry mouth," she said. "He was taking multiple medications and multiple pills daily to treat that condition and I knew he was a good candidate for salivary endoscopic surgery."
Salivary endoscopy surgery uses tiny scopes that go in through the natural openings of the saliva ducts in the mouth. "Essentially, we irrigated out the glands," Dr. Bier-Laning said of the outpatient procedure. "Mr. Hackney was able to go home just a few hours after the surgery."
Called xerostomia, dry mouth is characterized by an unusually dry mouth due to a lack of saliva, or spit. Without saliva, basic functions such as chewing, eating, swallowing and talking are difficult.
"You never realize how important it is to have saliva until your body can't make any," Mr. Hackney said. "I couldn't even swallow once without the aid of more than 20 medications I was taking daily."
Dr. Bier-Laning surgically corrected his salivary gland disorder, restoring natural moistness and saving him thousands of dollars per year in prescription costs.
Mr. Hackney saw results immediately. "The procedure was basically pain-free and I quit taking my daily 20 - 25 pills automatically," he said. "I have moisture in my mouth all the time and can swallow. I wish I had known about it years ago because I would have had the surgery much sooner."
Loyola Medicine's experienced otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons treat a variety of problems of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck—including thyroid and salivary gland disorders, sinus and skull base disorders and head and neck cancers. Loyola otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons are fellowship-trained and work as part of a clinically integrated care team, partnering with audiologists, neurosurgeons, speech therapists and other specialists to provide state-of-the-art surgical techniques and minimally invasive approaches for many types of surgery.
"To see Mr. Hackney's success makes me really feel happy that I was able to have such an impact on his life," Dr. Bier-Laning said.
Loyola University Health System