You may be surprised to learn that, next to flu and the common cold, the
most common reason people go to their doctor is for symptoms of GERD—gastro-esophageal
reflux disease. According to one Gallup survey, between 25 percent and
40 percent of Americans suffer from GERD, with as many as 10 percent experiencing
symptoms every day.
If you have GERD, you may suffer from frequent heartburn, an uncomfortable,
burning sensation in your chest. If this happens more than twice a week,
you may have GERD. Other symptoms of GERD include regurgitation of acidic
fluid from your stomach up into your throat and chronic coughing, which
may be caused by stomach acid trickling into your throat and lungs at
night while you are in bed.
Medication is the most common treatment for GERD. There are H2-blockers
available over the counter or by prescription that decrease acid production
in your digestive tract. Another type of medication, called a proton pump
inhibitor, is available by prescription. It can relieve acid reflux symptoms
and may help to heal the lining of the esophagus.
If medications don’t work and tests show there is a problem with
the anatomy of your digestive tract or the way it functions, surgery may
help. Recently in the Tri-City Area, a new procedure to treat GERD was
introduced with excellent results.
“This treatment can resolve symptoms of GERD while allowing patients
to get off their medications,” reports Fremont-based thoracic surgeon
Mary S. Maish, MD, who performs the procedure. Dr. Maish is chief of thoracic
and foregut surgery for Washington Township Medical Foundation and a member
of the medical staff at Washington Hospital.
Called LINX, the new minimally invasive procedure treats one of the most
common causes of GERD, a weakness in the valve between the esophagus and
the stomach. If the valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter, doesn’t
close all the way after food passes through or opens too often, acid produced
by the stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can lead to heartburn.
With this procedure, Dr. Maish puts a beaded magnetic bracelet over the
esophagus and places it on top of the stomach. When foods or drink passes
through the sphincter into the stomach, the beads are pushed apart. Once
the food has passed through, the magnetic beads come back to their original
“bracelet” position. This creates a high pressure zone that
prevents acid reflux from coming up into the esophagus.
“So, food and drink can move from top to bottom but not from bottom
to top,” explained Dr. Maish. “The procedure can provide lifelong
acid suppression. Anyone who is taking antacid medication for symptoms
of GERD is a candidate.”
Dr. Maish performs the laparoscopic surgery using tiny instruments with
the help of tiny cameras that enable her to visualize the surgical site.
The cameras and instruments are introduced into the patient’s body
through two very small incisions. The entire procedure takes from 30 minutes
to an hour. Patients can return home the same day or stay in the Hospital
overnight, depending on their comfort level.
“My patients who have had the procedure are very happy with it and
excited about the results,” says Dr. Maish. “They no longer
need their medications for GERD and can eat anything they want. If I had
GERD, I would want to have this procedure. I know several physicians who
have had it and are very happy with the results.”
If you have symptoms of GERD, it is important to see your doctor. If left
untreated, GERD can lead to irritation and scarring of the esophagus which
can cause significant problems with your respiratory system. Long-standing
irritation of the esophagus can also lead to cancer in a small percentage
To learn more about GERD, visit www.gi.org, the website of the American
Academy of Gastroenterology. For more information about Washington Township
Medical Foundation, visit www.mywtmf.com. For more about Washington Hospital,
go to www.whhs.com.