Healthy Living: Heartburn surgery
Heartburn affects millions of people, but it could be treated in a new way. Casey Bortnick has a closer look at a new, promising device.
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For thirty years, Mike Gerlach suffered through chronic heartburn.
"It feels like your chest is on fire," said Gerlach.
It controlled Gerlach's life. Unwilling to give up his favorite foods, Mike decided to simply suffer through it.
"On nights when I was affected real bad, I'd wake up two or three times to take medication," said Gerlach.
"It's a lifelong disease. Once you have it, it doesn’t go away," explained Dr. Jeffrey Peters, a surgeon.
Dr. Peters at the University of Rochester Medical Center says patients like Mike suffer from a break down in the body's natural plumbing system.
"There's a sphincter muscle a round muscle,” explained Dr. Peters…
...That acts like a barrier, keeping the acid in the stomach from backing up into the esophagus. For people like Mike, this muscle doesn't work properly.
"You obviously wouldn't want to lay down at night and have your dinner end up in your mouth. For people with severe reflux disease this actually happens once in a while but it's not supposed to happen," said Dr. Peters.
Peters was on a short list of doctors nationwide chosen to test a new device about the size of a nickel.
"It goes around the lower esophagus just like it would go around my finger," Dr. Peters said.
The linx reflux management system is basically a ring of magnetic beads. Once surgically implanted, these magnets keep food into the stomach, while keeping acidic backwash out of the esophagus.
"It would be a more dynamic barrier that would open and close you swallow," said Dr. Peters.
While there are future clinical trials planned, the device is currently approved for patients with mild to moderate heart burn, on typical medications Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec.
“It's meant for patients that have some symptom break through on medications, and we think there's a fair number of them out there," explained Dr. Peters.
Mike was one of five patients in New York State who received the device in a 2009 clinical trial in Rochester, after a thirty to forty minute laproscopic surgery.
"The fix was that immediate," Gerlach said.
His symptoms were gone.
"I don't take any medications for acid reflux. I just don't have it," said Gerlach.
Mike is now free to eat what he wants without paying a painful price.
"It's not something that you want to live with. And I'm really happy I found a cure," said Gerlach.