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June 17, 2002


Bravo System to Diagnose Heartburn is Kinder, Gentler

Emory University 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 going on.

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.

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