There are a number of different treatment options for individuals suffering from gastro esophageal reflux disease, often referred to as GERD. Womack Army Medical Center is offering a new surgical treatment option after being certified earlier this year to perform the procedure.
GERD is a digestive disorder where the contents of the stomach move back up into the esophagus often causing heartburn or acid indigestion. Surgeons at Womack are now able to insert a magnetic device that looks like a stretchy bracelet around your esophagus at the sphincter, which is the band of muscle at the end of the esophagus, to prevent acid from moving up from your stomach.
“While medications are often a valuable tool in managing the symptoms of GERD by cutting down the acidity, they don’t fix the actual problem,” said Lt. Col. Angel Reyes, a surgeon at WAMC. “This procedure helps fix the problem.”
Capt. Raymond Bixler, 1st Training Brigade, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, decided to undergo surgery after suffering from symptoms of GERD since 2007. He said that immediately after he woke up after the procedure he could tell the difference.
“I was able to eat and drink with no issues didn’t have any heartburn,” said Bixler. “It was the first time I’d felt that way in years.”
Before inserting the device, the surgeon measures the diameter of the esophagus numerous times and adjusts the number of beads to ensure it is customized to fit the patient. Once inserted, the device goes around the sphincter without any pinching or squeezing.
The magnetic beads in the device separate while swallowing, which allows food and liquid to pass into your stomach. After you swallow, the beads magnetically re-attract, closing the sphincter to prevent reflux.
Reyes said that patients who qualify for the procedure can greatly benefit from the relief that it offers. He said that not only is there an improvement in heartburn symptoms, it can potentially eliminate the need for medications to manage the symptoms of GERD. Reducing the acid exposure in your esophagus can also decrease your chances for long-term complications such as esophageal bleeding and ulcers.
The device is a permanent implant intended to provide lifetime relief. Individuals who suffer from GERD can talk to their primary care physician to see if a surgery is right for them. In addition to implanting the device, there are surgical options that may be a better fit based on individual needs.