10th April 2010
Former Bristol City star Gerry Sweeney believes years of forcing himself to go to the toilet before playing is to blame for the painful piles which developed in recent years.
Gerry, aged 64, says he always made a point of visiting the loo before joining his team-mates on the pitch – and that several years later, the problem resulted in haemorrhoids.
Now living in Portishead and working as a window cleaner, Gerry has undergone a pioneering treatment to cure the problem called HALO (haemorrhoid artery ligation operation), at Spire Bristol Hospital.
“I got caught short on the training ground once, so after that I used to make myself go to the toilet before going out to play, and I think that is where the problem started,” says Gerry, who played over 400 games for City both in defence and midfield in the 1970s and 80s.
He was part of the side that reached the old First Division under Alan Dicks and was a member of the famous “Ashton Gate Eight”, who agreed to have their long-term contracts torn up in order to save the debt-ridden club from going under in 1982.
“I suffered from piles for a number of years but then around 18 months ago I started to bleed when I went to the toilet. My doctor recommended that I see consultant Paul Sylvester at Spire Bristol Hospital, for a thorough examination.
“He used a small rubber band to cut off the blood supply to the piles and this worked for a while, although they did not disappear completely. Then last December the problem got worse again and the bleeding was heavier than before.
“That was when Mr Sylvester examined me again and explained how the HALO procedure worked. I had the operation earlier this year and since then it has been a thousand times better, in fact the piles have disappeared altogether and my life has returned to normal.”
“Everyone has the potential to get haemorrhoids, and more than half the population will suffer from them at some stage,” explains Mr Sylvester.
“The sides of the anal canal have “cushions” of tissue and these sometimes swell up and slip downwards, or prolapse, and then rupture, which causes bleeding.
“This problem is usually caused when the sufferer has been straining to go to the toilet, but it is also common in pregnant women.”
Mr Sylvester says that unlike other treatments for piles, the surgery is relatively pain and risk-free.
“HALO is performed as a day case under a light anaesthetic or sedation. It only takes about 20 minutes and the patient can return to work soon afterwards.
“First we insert an ultrasound probe which allows us to identify the blood supply which is feeding the piles. We then feed a needle with a stitch attached through the centre of the probe to tie off the blood vessel. There are very few nerves in this region, so this isn’t painful after the anaesthetic has worn off.
“For patients with permanently protruding piles, we take one final step and hoist them back into the canal, using a running stitch to secure them into place.
“The alternative treatments for haemorrhoids are band ligation, where a small rubber band is used to cut off the blood supply at the base of the pile, open surgery where the piles are cut off, or stapling, where tiny staples are used to secure the tissues in place. These can all be more painful than HALO and carry more risk of scarring and bleeding.
“HALO has a success rate of around 90 per cent where there is bleeding and the same percentage if a prolapse occurs. If the patient does suffer a recurrence, they can always come back and have it repeated.”