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New Treatment Can Bring Lifelong Relief from Gastric Reflux

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 of patients.

Learn more

To learn more about GERD, visit, the website of the American Academy of Gastroenterology. For more information about Washington Township Medical Foundation, visit For more about Washington Hospital, go to