Patients with chronic Acid Reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) face a constant case of bad heartburn that is often not fully resolvable by medications. These patients suffer from continual damage to their digestive tract causes by the passage of acid from their stomachs into the tube, called the esophagus, that connects the mouth to the stomach. An ineffective valve at the top of the stomach causes this leakage of the stomach acid.
With roughly 1 in 10 people in the US, and 1 in 15 people in Canada affected by this condition, there is a considerable amount of discomfort being experienced. Fortunately, with so many people affected, a number of different efforts are underway to find non-medicinal approaches to correct this condition. In the past, surgical approaches would have been considered only when all other drug-related treatments had proven ineffective. However, the surgical procedures now being trialed are based on new minimally invasive and incision-free techniques that should allow more people with the condition to benefit from the reasonably high success rate of such surgeries.
The most common form of surgical treatment currently in use, called fundoplication, involves wrapping part of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus in order to increase the effectiveness of the valve in blocking the acid. The wrapped portion of the stomach effectively acts like a belt to tighten the valve. This approach is now performed using laparoscopic techniques or small incisions through which surgical tools and cameras are inserted to enable the surgeon to perform the operation.&nbsp;
Another of the approaches currently in use, but in its early stages involves inserting a tool in through the mouth and passing it down the throat to the bottom of the stomach. Once there, the surgeon can use the tool to reshape the existing valve or use other tissue to create a valve that fits properly to keep the acid from leaving the stomach. This procedure can be completed within an hour.
A newer approach under trial involves improving the ability of the valve to block acid through the use of implanted magnets. The magnets are fixed around the bottom of the esophagus and their attraction to one another works as a sort of choker to help keep the valve closed when food is not passing through. This procedure is also completed fairly quickly in less than half an hour.
As we can see from this progression of surgical options, surgeons are working to reduce the risks to patients through less invasive procedures and shorter operating times. With at least 80% of patients no longer requiring drugs following surgery and roughly 95% experiencing complete elimination of their heartburn symptoms, any efforts that reduce the risk of such treatments and enable more sufferers to find relief are more than welcome.