Heartburn is one popular condition. Wherever one looks, there are slick advertisements for pills to treat heartburn--also known as GERD or acid reflux. For many sufferers, the pills do work to control the discomfort.
The downside? Heartburn sufferers have to take the medication on a regular basis--sometimes for the rest of their lives.
And, then there are the people who can’t take the pills.
To help those sufferers who are doomed to a lifetime of heartburn medication, the digestive disease specialists at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, are offering an alternative to surgery -- the currently accepted permanent way to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn.
“GERD is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter, the valve separating the esophagus from the stomach,” explained David Loren, M.D., director of Endoscopic Research in the Digestive Disease division of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and assistant professor of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. “When working normally, this valve allows food to enter the stomach but does not allow the resulting stomach acid to ‘back up’ into the esophagus. It is the acid backing up that causes the uncomfortable burning sensation often known as heartburn.”
With a new outpatient procedure, known as Enteryx, a physician injects a liquid substance into the lower esophageal sphincter while the patient is lightly sedated. Over the next few seconds, the substance hardens into a sponge-like permanent implant. “This procedure strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter resulting in the elimination of the heartburn in two thirds of patients,” explained Jorge Prieto, M.D., who is clinical assistant professor of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.
The procedure is completed in about 35 minutes. Patients for whom the Enteryx procedure may be used include those who:
- Have documented GERD or reflux,
- Also respond to drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI) to treat the GERD.
For information about treatment for gastrointestinal problems or to make an appointment with a Jefferson digestive disease specialist, call 1-800-JEFF-NOW.