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New Device Helps When GERD Medications Stop Working

May 7, 2013

A new device resembling a baby bracelet has been approved to help individuals with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can bring relief to patients whose medications have stopped working and to those who have never achieved satisfactory management of the condition.

According to ScienceDaily, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the LINX Reflux Management System developed by Torax Medical to control GERD symptoms. It's a small surgical implant consisting of titanium beads with magnetic cores.

GERD is a chronic condition. It occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back into the esophagus. The Mayo Clinic reports that while most people can control sporadic heartburn with over-the-counter (OTC) products and lifestyle changes, GERD patients often achieve only temporary relief from burning, coughing, swallowing problems, regurgitation, chest pain, and other symptoms.

The disorder occurs when a valve at the bottom of the esophagus opens too easily due to pressure from beyond the stomach. This gives stomach acid and, less commonly, bile an opportunity to flow backward into the esophagus and cause problems.

WomensHealth.gov links a growing obesity epidemic to rising numbers of people with acid reflux. A Norwegian team concerned with GERD and cancer of the esophagus collected data on nearly 30,000 individuals who took part in the Norwegian Nord-Trondelag Health Study between 1995 and 2009. The scientists found that the prevalence of patients with GERD symptoms jumped 30 percent during that period. The number of patients showing severe symptoms rose 24 percent.

Surgeons can implant the new device with a minimally invasive procedure. The magnetic attraction between the beads lets food pass. The beads then flip into place to keep the defective valve from opening.

Many patients on prescription medication for GERD have also revised their diets, yet find they still experience regurgitation. Others who were well controlled by drugs for years discover that the drugs have stopped working. Healthcare providers consider the new device a way to help both types of patients avoid major surgery.

I awoke one day about 20 years ago, sensing that something like a golf ball was stuck in my esophagus. Endoscopy showed that I had GERD. The first of eight medications I've subsequently taken quickly resolved the problem, and I didn't need surgery to stretch my esophagus.

The success of subsequent OTC and prescription drugs has waxed and waned. Endoscopy every few years identifies an inflamed spot on my esophagus that doctors assume is the result of taking certain drugs for Crohn's disease.

A few months ago, I started experiencing severe chest pain for hours on end and began coughing. This resulted in several successive medication changes. Each drug ceased working.

After reading about the new device designed to help when GERD drugs stop working, I called my gastroenterologist. I have an appointment to discuss it as a way to avoid a big surgery.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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