Electrical Stimulation - Promising New Treatment for GERD
Anyone who suffers with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or better known as GERD, knows firsthand the pain and discomfort that stomach acid can cause when it backs up into the esophagus and throat. There are a number of treatments available once this condition has been diagnosed, but research continues the quest for better, less invasive treatments. Electrical stimulation of the esophagus may be a promising treatment in the future for unresolved acid reflux symptoms.
Researchers are trying to find a way to strengthen a weak or dysfunctional esophageal sphincter. When this muscle is weakened it tends to be the key underlying cause of reflux. This ring-shaped muscular valve serves as the body's way of keeping acid contents in the stomach where it belongs can become weak allowing the contents of stomach to travel up the esophagus into the throat and sometimes into the mouth.
If the esophageal sphincter can be strengthened, researchers believe great progress will have been made to control acid reflux. Studies have been conducted to examine the effects of EST, electrical stimulation, in Gerd patients who were only partially responsive to proton pump inhibitors. An electrical stimulation device was implanted for a period of time in these patients. After sixth months, a follow up was conducted where 91% of the participants in the study showed marked improvement. Furthermore, there appeared to be no adverse problems due to the implantation and stimulation. Swallowing continued to be normal. The conclusion from these studies thus far has been that electrical stimulation is not only safe but an effective treatment for GERD. Not only that, there was usually a reduction in the use of proton pump inhibitors.
European approval for the implantation of these electrical stimulation devices has already been received and companies are beginning to work their way through the regulatory process in the United States. The device is intended to be used for people who suffer from severe GERD. It is implanted under the skin of the abdomen during laparoscopic surgery. A lead is then connected to electrodes on the pulse generator to the esophagus. The generator emits low-energy electrical pulses that are intended to stimulate the LES muscle. Marketing of the device began in Europe in August. A phase 3 study of the procedure has begun in the United States. In time, it will be interesting to see how many people are actually willing to undergo surgery in order to better cope with the discomfort of severe acid reflux.
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