System to Diagnose Heartburn is Kinder, Gentler
gastrointestinal surgeons are using a kinder, gentler method to detect
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), the familiar problem of "heartburn"
caused when acids reflux, or flow backwards, from the stomach into the
esophagus causing inflammation.
In the past, patients with
severe chronic reflux were diagnosed by the use of an uncomfortable
trans-nasal catheter which was threaded through the nose and into the
esophagus, and worn for 24 hours. Not only was the experience uncomfortable
and embarrassing, but patients were unable to enjoy their regular diet
and activities. The Bravo pH test is a catheter-free system that allows
patients to continue with their regular routine while the testing is
In a 45-minute procedure
under twilight sedation, a miniature pH transmitter about the size of
a capsule is attached to the wall of the esophagus by a special catheter
which is immediately removed once the capsule is placed. Using radio
frequency, the capsule transmits pH data to a small receiver that is
worn on a belt by the patient. The receiver collects and stores data
over a period of 24-48 hours, at which time the transmitter is naturally
sloughed off into the patient's digestive tract and passed out of the
body. The data is then uploaded from the receiver to a computer equipped
with software that translates the data to provide a comprehensive report
for the physician.
"Approximately 75 million
Americans suffer from some form of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease,"
said C. Daniel Smith, M.D., FACS, associate professor of surgery at
Emory University School of Medicine and chief of general and gastrointestinal
surgery at Emory University Hospital. "In order to properly diagnose
this ailment, we have to test the level of acid that is being regurgitated
into the esophagus. With this new technology, patients are more willing
to be tested and, therefore, we as physicians can do a better job prescribing
treatment. At best, the problem is mildly uncomfortable and can be treated
with medication. At worst, severe chronic reflux can be treated by a
non-invasive surgical procedure. Untreated over a lifetime, serious
reflux problems can eventually lead to a condition known as Barrett's
esophagus syndrome and then to esophageal cancer."
The Bravo pH System was developed
by Endonetics, Inc., a medical device company located in San Diego,
Ca. that was recently acquired by Medtronics, Inc.