Magnets helping people with GERD

By  | 

Chronic heartburn, also known as GERD, keeps millions of Americans from enjoying the foods they love. It can also lead to a dangerous form of cancer.

Now some people suffering with GERD are finding relief with the help of an unlikely source, mini magnets.

Mixing, heating, and topping. It's all part of the fun for Janet. Whipping up tasty sweets is a passion and a family tradition.

Janet, has GERD, explains how cooking is in her blood, "My mother was a great example. She was a fantastic cook and baker."

She shared her mom's love of baking. Just a couple years ago, food wasn't appealing.

Janet, explains the feelings she had, "I always had a burning sensation. I always felt a discomfort and burning. I would always think about what I ate before I ate it."

Janet had severe heartburn known as GERD. It happens when acids leak up from the stomach into the esophagus. The only treatments are drugs that offer short-term relief or a surgery where doctors knot the stomach around the esophagus. Now, there's this, a magnetic device that stops acid reflux in its tracks.

In a 20-minute procedure, surgeons place the device around the bottom of the esophagus. Magnetic attraction between the beads helps the esophagus open up when food goes down then close tightly so acid can't find its way up.

Santiago Horgan, MD, UC San Diego Health System, explains how it does not let food go back up, "And when food tries to come back up, it's closed, so nothing comes back up, but things can go through."

After the procedure, patients like Janet can eat what they want right away.

Janet , explains how well it is working, "I'm eating the regular food and not feeling discomfort or pain."

Janet's even started a blog, sharing all of her favorite recipes and her best advice.

The doctor says the procedure is simple to perform and there are no food restrictions. With traditional surgery, patients are put on a special diet for six weeks.


REPORT: MB #3427

BACKGROUND: Most people who experience chronic heartburn wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes with pain deep in the throat, other times with a sore throat and trouble breathing, as if they were having an asthma attack. When severe heartburn happens, often it can be diagnosed as GERD. GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux, when food and stomach acids "burp" back up from your stomach after eating. When it is left untreated for a long period of time, it could develop into esophagus cancer or other permanent damage to the esophagus.

TREATMENT FOR CHRONIC HEARTBURN: Doctors usually immediately tell a patient who is experiencing heartburn to try changing their diet or make small lifestyle changes first. Some suggestions might be:
* Try eating smaller meals, and don't eat two to three hours before bedtime.
* Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, smoking, aspirin, and pain relievers.
* Avoid foods that may trigger heartburn, such as fried food, citrus, tomato, spices, peppermint, chocolate, and carbonated drinks.
* Lose weight if doctor suggests it.

Other treatments include, but are not limited to:

* OVER THE COUNTER ANTACIDS: For occasional heartburn, antacids like Maalox, Rolaids, and Tums can be used. Digestion works with a variety of different chemicals produced when someone eats, which tell the stomach to produce stomach acid to help digestion. Antacids contain magnesium, calcium, or aluminum to neutralize excess stomach acid. However, for chronic heartburn antacids are often not enough.
* ACID BLOCKERS: These drugs are as fast-acting as antacids, but they last longer and are more effective for several hours. They are supposed to block stomach acids that the stomach produces. Over-the-counter acid blockers include Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac, and are available in prescription strength doses. These medicines are normally used as a preventative medication and not for fast relief.
* PROTON PUMP INHIBITORS (PPI): These drugs shut down tiny proton pumps that produce acid eventually lowering acid levels dramatically. They're often used when histamine blockers don't provide enough relief. One over the counter drug is Prilosec. More aggressive medicines include Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, or Protonix and require a doctor's prescription. There is debate, however, over whether PPI's are safe to take for a long period of time.
* SURGERY: Sometimes with chronic heartburn the doctor might suggest surgery or a procedure called endoscopy, which allows the specialist to see inside your esophagus to see whether acid reflux has eroded the lining of the esophagus or caused other damage.

A NEW TREATMENT: LINX, A MAGNETIC DEVICE TO STOP HEARTBURN: The LINX device is a titanium ring of magnetic beads. Surgeons place the device around the lower end of the esophagus to strengthen the muscles that are usually supposed to block stomach acid and other contents from rising while also allowing liquids and foods to go down. It is manufactured by Torax Medical of Shoreview, Minn. and has been on the market in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy for about two years. During Torax's clinical trial, 100 patients who have suffered from GERD for an average of 13 years and experienced around 80 heartburn attacks a week were examined before and 12 months after they had the procedure done. Just over half of the patients saw their acid level fall by at least one-half and reported that their quality of life improved as well. Three-quarters of the patients experienced side effects, the most common being difficulty swallowing, which in some cases took six months or more to resolve. The second was pain and in five patients the device had to be removed. Also because the device is a magnetic, MRI's (if needed) could not be performed. The device is still in clinical trials in the US, but an FDA advisory committee unanimously voted that the LINX device was safe and effective for treating GERD that does not respond to medication. Also, the panel unanimously voted that the benefits of LINX for those patients outweigh the risks. The FDA usually, but not always, follows its advisory committees' guidance (Source: