Stretta Procedure: New Treatment Option for GERD

Gastrointestinal reflux disease has a number of treatment options, including lifestyle and behavior modification, surgical treatments and medication. There's a new form of treatment that's offering yet another option to help folks with GERD put an end to their painful symptoms of heartburn, nausea and difficulty swallowing — radiofrequency.

The appeal of the non-invasive radiofrequency treatment is easy to understand because it gives GERD patients an alternative to a lifetime of having to take medication or from the trauma of surgery. Let's face it, with the current busy lifestyle of most Americans, very few of us can be bothered to stop and take medication at certain times every day, and why should we if there's a relatively pain-free procedure that can put an end to what's ailing us. The form of radiofrequency treatment used to treat GERD is caused the Stretta procedure. The Stretta procedure was approved by the FDA in 2000, and thus is a relatively new medical procedure, but all studies indicate that it is safe and successful in treating GERD.

In the Stretta procedure, the physician slips a sturdy, but small and flexible tube known as an endocope down the patient's throate and into the esophagus. Endoscopic surgery is a relatively recent innovation in surgery and has revolutionized the field by making once extensive surgical undertakings less invasive, thus boosting patient recovery time and lessening the chance of infection.

In the Stretta procedure, the patient is given a sedative prior to the beginning of this procedure to keep him or her docile and to minimalize any discomfort that the procedure might cause. The patient does remain conscious during the procedure, however.

The endoscope has a very small camera on its end that allows them to see where they're going and what's going on inside the esophagus. Also on the tube is something called a Stretta device, which is basically a catheter with a balloon on its end. Once the endoscope is positioned properly just above the stomach in the esophagus, the surgeon will insert the Stretta device and inflate the balloon. When the balloon is inflated, four sharp probes on the outside of the balloon will be exposed. RF waves are then delivered through the probes to the lower esophageal sphincter's muscles every other minute for about 14 minutes. The entire area that's treated is only about one inch in length.

The effect of the RF waves will strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, causing it to resume its proper function of keeping stomach acid out of the esophagus. Then entire time of the procedure is only 30 to 45 minutes.

Radiofrequency is a promising form of treatment in many fields. In fact, radiofrequency is being used to treat Barrett's esophagus, an illness related to GERD that can result in cancer. In this procedure, the waves are used to burn off potentially cancerous spots in the esophagus.

According to studies, the Stretta procedure works well at doing several things that will reduce the symptoms of GERD, such as increasing pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, decreasing the amount of time the esophagus is exposed to stomach acid and reducing the patient's need for GERD medications.

After the procedure, msot folks can return to their normal, everyday activities within about a day. According to studies, most Stretta patients are capable of ceasing their acid blocking medication within about a year of the procedure. More than four-fifths of patients report that they remain symptom-free even three year's after the procedure.

One of the key benefits of the procedure is that it isn't as invasive as the surgical options, and thus is less painful and requires less downtime from the patient to recover. In fact, the procedure is commonly performed on an outpatient basis in a doctor's office. The entire procedure only takes about an hour to complete and patients can go home immediately after the operation.

Patients who should consider Stretta are folks who have trouble remembering to take medication or who have bad reactions to GERD medication. There are some GERD patients who should not undergo the procedure. These patients include folks who have severe reflux problems, large hiatal
hernias or a poorly functioning esophagus coupled with dysphagia or stricture.

If you're a GERD sufferer, and you're tired of taking medication but don't want to undergo surgery, you should consult with your doctor concerning the Stretta procedure. This minimally invasive procedure may be the magic bullet that you're looking for that will relieve you of the unpleasant symptoms of GERD that you've been experiencing.