Sewing to solve a digestive problem

January 23, 2012 3:01:34 PM PST
From babies to grown-ups, it's a digestive problem that can hit anyone.

For 25 million Americans, GERD is a painful issue they deal with every day. Now doctors are offering patients relief with a medical sewing machine of sorts.

Alexa Hollander has a sweet gig working at her favorite yogurt shop.

What she didn't love was the sudden pain she started feeling two years ago every time she ate.

"Instantly get this really bad taste in my mouth," Alexa said.

Alexa was diagnosed with GERD - a chronic digestive disease that happens when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe causing inflammation. For two years she tried different types of medication. Nothing worked.

"That's when I realized we have a serious issue here," Deborah Hollander, alexa's mom, said.

"As the esophagus gets more and more injured from the acid, the cells in the esophagus can start to change that can predispose you to cancer down the road," Miguel Burch, MD Associate Director of General and Minimally Invasive Surgery Cedars Sinai Medical Center, said.

Before that could happen, Dr. Burch performed a new surgery, to help Alexa keep her food down. Without incisions, Dr. Burch gathered part of Alexa's upper stomach, pinched it and sewed it around the lower end of the esophagus, creating a one way valve that allows food to pass through the esophagus and into the stomach, but it doesn't allow the acids to come back

"It's a very innovative way to sew, she was able to within 2 hours to have her disease under control again," Dr. Burch said.

In a three year clinical trial, 80-percent of patients were off their daily anti-acid medication after the procedure and were able to eat more types of food.

"They gave me apple juice and I hadn't had apple juice in two years," Alexa said.

Today, Alexa is back to being a normal teenager and ready to tackle her most important job, serving and eating her favorite foods.

Because there are no incisions in this procedure, there's minimal scarring and patients should be able to return to normal activities within days. Doctor Burch says patients might experience a sore throat after the surgery but it should go away in just a few days.


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