Surgical procedure can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms
Posted January 12, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."
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."