Millions of people around the world suffer from heartburn, a painful feeling in the chest and sometimes also the throat, after eating a heavy meal. A promising new treatment may help.
Heartburn is usually linked to gastric acid that reaches the esophagus when a weak muscle does not close as it should after swallowing. When stomach juices back up into the esophagus, the acid can cause a burning sensation in the chest and throat.
If the problem occurs more than twice a week, it is considered a disease, called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) that can lead to more serious health problems.
People suffering from acid reflux rely on anti-acid tablets and drugs such as Prilosec and Nexium.
Californian Tricia Carr says her mother developed complications from acid reflux that killed her. So Carr decided to use a new device that reinforces the weak muscle and keeps it closed after swallowing.
"It's an easy quick fix and it fixed me a hundred percent," she stated.
The so-called Linx device is a ring made of titanium beads with magnets inside that keep the valve closed after the food passes through it. Carr learned about it from Doctor John Lipham at the Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport, California, where she is a nurse.
"The force of the traction of these magnetic beads coming together helps keep the weak lower esophageal sphincter or valve closed at the end of the esophagus," he stated.
The device was approved by the Federal Drug Administration last year. Doctor Lipham says it costs $5,000, and the surgery to place it around the weak valve can cost between $12,000 and $20,000, depending on the hospital charges.
Tricia Carr received her device in October and says now she can eat anything she wants without fear of complications.
"It slows you down eating," she said. "Nothing hurts and you don't feel the band."
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study of the device in 100 patients. The most frequent side effect has been difficulty swallowing right after the surgery. Doctors say the results so far have been impressive, but it will be some time before they know if the device can hold up for many years.