The treatment involves a minimally invasive procedure where a small ring of magnetic beads is inserted around the end of a patient's esophagus. Swallowing temporarily breaks the magnetic bond between the beads, so that food can enter the stomach. Magnetic attraction then causes the beads to close so acid can't flow into the esophagus.
Called the LINX Reflux Management System, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved device is made of titanium magnetic beads that are pliant enough to stretch and contract. The procedure, which typically takes less than an hour, gained FDA approval in March 2012. The device was approved following 10 years of development and testing, where 144 patients participated in two FDA-regulated clinical trials. Mayo Clinic was one of the 14 centers participating in the trials.
A study highlighting the device is published online today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Medications known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, have been the primary treatment for GERD over the past 20 years, as well surgical interventions.
"This procedure shows promise as an option for patients who do not respond well to lifestyle changes or who want an alternative to medications, says Kristi Harold, M.D., General Surgery, Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "Left untreated, GERD can lead to Barrett's esophagus, which increases the risk for esophageal cancer."
More than 20 million people in the U.S. are afflicted with GERD daily.
Mayo Clinic has a financial interest in the technology referenced in this news release and in the manufacturer of that technology.