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Surgical procedure can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms

Posted January 12, 2012

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— Finding relief from daily heartburn and the symptoms of acid reflux can be tough. 

Millions of Americans turn to prescription and over-the-counter drugs to treat the symptoms, making those medicines some of the most popular in the country.

For people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, the symptoms can be almost unbearable and don't respond well to medicine. 

Now, a new surgical option being discussed by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel could offer relief and help people get off the medications that don't always improve the symptoms. 

Kelly Morisette, a GERD patient, suffered for more than 20 years and couldn't eat without feeling the pain or discomfort. 

"A lot of times, like, as I was eating, not even halfway through a meal, the food would start coming back up," Morisette said. 

She changed her diet and took the maximum doses of different acid reflux medications, but nothing worked. Eventually, Morisette's doctor mentioned the possibility of using an experimental device. 

Doctors inserted the device, which is a small band of magnetic beads, around the valve at the end of Morisette's esophagus to keep the stomach acid from getting in. Two years later, Morisette's symptoms are gone. 

"I don't take any medicine," she said. "I can eat anything in the world I want. I mean anything." 

GERD device Procedure can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms

Dr. John Lipham, a researcher at the Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California, said the magnetic beads help make weak valves around the end of the esophagus stronger. Essentially, the beads stop the reflux symptoms before they ever have a chance to start. 

The 15-minute surgery does require general anesthesia and five small incisions, but the recovery period is quick, Lipham said. The most common post-surgery issue is that patients have some difficulty swallowing in the first few days. 

"Most of the pain is gone within a few days after the surgery," he said. "Patients seem to get back on to a regular diet quicker than they did with conventional surgery."

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  • hokiechick04 Jan 18, 2012

    Remember this is still a procedure that is not approved by the FDA. Most of these "band" type procedures cause erosions into the surrounding tissue.

  • slwral Jan 17, 2012

    I have had reflux since birth and I would love to have a day were I did not have to take a pill just so I could eat. I have tried changing what I eat and I eat yogurt everyday.

  • sjohnp2112 Jan 13, 2012

    Dude I'm tellin ya for me, cuttin out carbonated beverages and then daily small doses of Braggs organic apple cider vinegar did the trick for me, its amazing. Symptoms were reduced by 90 %

  • 23tony Jan 13, 2012

    fl2nc2ca2md2nc - it can't cure everyone. I eat almost exclusively home-cooked, and often home-grown foods. I've tried everything dietary that I can, with no luck. I WISH I could solve the problem that way, but I can't. For people like me, this is great news.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Jan 12, 2012

    The food we are eating today is garbage. Combine that with antibiotics (not bad in and of themselves) and we kill the good bacteria in our gut along with the bad. I was heading down the same path towards endoscopies and surgeries but was able to cure my acid reflux and heartburn by eating naturally fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, etc. I don't know if this can cure everyone but I know that it will cure a whole lot of people. I am off my Nexium which I took for almost ten years (and saving $60/month) and that is awesome! I can even go out to eat and I don't get heartburn anymore!

    I'm convinced big pharma doesn't want us cured, they just want us coming back for more. And doctors don't have time nor the inclination, in the current health insurance model, to give more individual care and research real cures. So all we get are bandaids instead.

    The internet is an incredible resource that can help you find more natural cures, use it and take your lif