PhotoYou can call it heartburn, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). But whatever you call it, it can lead to serious health issues.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new device to treat the condition and the Mayo Clinic in Florida says it will be one of the first health care institutions in the U.S. to use it.

“Mayo has been a leader in the treatment of esophageal diseases, especially GERD, and we are pleased to be offering this new treatment to our patients immediately,” said C. Daniel Smith, M.D., chair of the Surgery Department at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Took part in clinical trials

Mayo Florida is quick to ramp up on the treatment because it was one of only 14 U.S. medical centers that took part in clinical trials for the device. Previously, treatments for GERD were either medication of surgery.

The device offers a middle alternative; more powerful than medication but not as invasive as the complex surgery.

GERD is a condition in which liquid, or food, in the stomach flows back up into the esophagus due to the inability of a ring of muscle between the lower esophagus and the top of the stomach to close properly.

If drugs aimed at neutralizing the acid in the stomach fails to prevent GERD, Smith estimates as many as two million patients might benefit from the new treatment.

Long-needed option

“The new system will offer a long-needed treatment option for a large group of underserved patients,” he said.

The implanted device is a ring of tiny magnetic titanium beads that is wrapped around the junction between the stomach and esophagus, serving as a mechanical augmentation of the lower esophageal sphincter. The magnetic attraction between the beads is strong enough to keep the sphincter closed to refluxing acid, but weak enough so that food can pass through it into the stomach.

The device can be implanted using minimally invasive surgery methods.

“The system offers effective control of GERD with limited side effects and thus far an excellent safety record,” Smith said.

If it's not controlled, acid reflux or GERD can result in serious problems, including esophagitis, esophageal bleeding and ulcers,Barrett's esophagus, strictures, and an increased risk of esophagealcancer.  

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