Thursday, February 26, 2009

Now Magnets May Drive Reflux Disease Away

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes a person to experience chronic heartburn. While medical drugs helps manage the condition in the short-term, longer term relief sometimes requires surgery. But could a long term solution to the problem be hidden in modest looking magnets?

A common cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease or (GERD) is a weak or nonfunctional valve at the lower end of the esophagus (the canal that connects the mouth to the stomach), as a result the acids inside the stomach make their way into the esophagus. Since the esophagus or the food pipe isn't designed to withstand acids, the patient experiences chronic heartburn. But medics are now testing a new device which could support the function of the malfunctioning valves to treat the disease.

The New Reflux Control Device

Called the LINX Reflux Management System and introduced by Torax Medical, this device comprises a series of magnetic beads, and is meant to be placed around the bottom of the esophagus through a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, using medical instruments.

Once positioned, the magnetic attraction between the beads work in tandem with the valve and help prevent the acids to reflux, or rush up the esophagus. At the same time, the system is designed to allow food to normally pass through the esophagus to the stomach. Which is exactly what a healthy valve's function is.

According to experts, when medical therapy alone is used to treat GERD, the acids in the stomach are simply suppressed, but the underlying problem of reflux isn't cured. As a result, the most appropriate and lasting treatment for GERD would be to restore the body's own ability to avoid reflux itself.

While the new magnetic device is still being clinically tried, its real success might eventually depend on how effective it will be in comparison to other surgical procedures viz. open and Nissen fundoplications that are sometimes indicated for treating GERD.

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