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New surgery brings relief to GERD sufferers

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ATLANTA -

Lots of people struggle with heartburn from time to time, but for some, it's a daily problem.  The symptoms—from a burning throat to coughing and burping—aren't pretty, but there's a new way you might be able to fix the problem.

Rhonda Jamison is one of those who have struggled.  She tried everything, and says she felt that way after every meal.  She's like one of about 25 million Americans who suffer from severe acid reflux on a daily basis.

At the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Dr. Ryland Scott says they call it gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.  The good news is that about 60 percent of people who suffer from GERD get relief from medication.  

But Dr. Scott says about 30-40 percent of the time, patients will have breakthrough symptoms where their disease is too severe to be managed with a pill.  Those patients may need surgery, which typically involves using part of their upper stomach to create a valve between their esophagus and their stomach to stop the reflux.

Jamison found relief from something called the Linx procedure.  Dr. Scott says it's a magnetic device that slides down over the esophagus, and when a patient swallows, the magnetic beads pull apart.  That way, the food can easily pass into the stomach.  

When the patient is done, the beads pull back together, Dr. Scott says, so that the food that falls through doesn't come back up into the esophagus.  

It sounds simple, but Jamison says it seems to be working.  

The Linx procedure is new, so if you're interested, you should check with your insurance company to see if they cover it.  The surgery is minimally invasive and takes 20-30 minutes to complete.  It is done via laparscope.  The negative side effects are difficulty swallowing, pain and stomach bloating after the surgery.

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