Easing the pain of heartburn

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 20, 2008 4:16:34 PM PDT
Most of us have suffered from heartburn at one time or another. But when it becomes chronic, it can become dangerous. Now, there's a procedure that's bringing patients some relief.

A chair in his home used to be more than just where Charles Henderly would sit and read. For months, it was the only place he could sleep.

"I'd try to go to bed and a half hour after I'd lay my head down and close my eyes, I would almost have like a regurgitation in my mouth," he said. "So I'd come downstairs and get in the recliner."

For 30 years, severe heartburn had Charles eating a bland diet and popping antacids continuously.

"I was taking probably Maalox three times a day, and I was probably taking Tums almost like candy," he said.

"Some people can't continue to take the medication," said Dr. Scott Melvin, a gastrointestinal surgeon at Ohio State University. "Either they can't afford it, they have side effects or they just don't want to be on a pill every day. Other patients don't have good relief with symptoms with the medication alone. Those are really the two groups of patients that do quite well with the procedure."

It's a new incision-less procedure called esophyx.

"A tube goes through the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach," Dr. Melvin said. "Surgeons then rebuild the valve at bottom of the esophagus where it enters the stomach, stopping acid reflux immediately...Most patients do quite well and are able to get off medication."

Two months after the procedure, Charles was down to just one pill a day. He can eat whatever spicy foods he wants. An as for that sleep problem?

"I sleep in bed," he said. "I sleep all night."

His chair is back to being just a chair.

Patients can go home the day after the procedure, and it is covered by some insurance companies. Esophyx was just released in the U.S. last October, so doctors don't yet have data on the long-term results of the procedure.


STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg