If you suffer from heartburn regularly, you may be one of more than 15 million Americans who has the condition gastroesophogeal reflux disease or GERD for short. If not treated, it can occasionally lead to esophageal cancer, but there is a new way to fix the problem without surgery.
A guide wire helps doctors move this snake-like device called a Plicator through the esophagus into the stomach. The Plicator then pulls back tissue where the stomach and esophagus meet, and jaws clamp down and deploy an implant that sutures the tissue. Then, doctors tighten the valve between the stomach and esophagus, restoring the normal anti-reflux barrier without surgery.
"Definitely, something different from surgery where people stay in the hospital at least one night and have a longer recovery time compared to endoscopic procedure where people can go back to work the day after," says Alfonso Torquati M.D. at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The whole thing is done in a 30-minute outpatient procedure. The FDA has approved the Plicator, and it is already available for heartburn sufferers, but it is expensive. So now, about 180 patients in the United States and Europe are included in an international study, which aims to prove the Plicator's effectiveness so that more insurance carriers will cover the procedure.