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Do You Need Surgery To Cure Your Heartburn?

I've written often about how worthless proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec and Nexium) and H2 blockers (Tagamet and Zantec) really are. That certainly has nothing to do with any lack of effectiveness in handling chronic heartburn (also known as gastroesophogeal reflux disease or GERD), because they are. Fact is, none of these drugs do anything to treat the cause of the problem. Even worse, using these drugs creates an incredible reliance on them for continued pain relief (the proton pump inhibitors are particularly notorious for this).

With that in mind, you can imagine I wasn't at all surprised to read about the newest trend in "treating" GERD: Endoscopic reflux treatments. Here's a list of the different varieties of endoscopic procedures available:

  • Stretta (approved by the FDA four years ago) uses radio-frequency current to scar and narrow the esophagus.
  • Gastric plication involves sewing together parts of the stomach lining.
  • Plicare, a procedure similar to gastric plication, uses deeper stomach sutures.
  • Enteryx involves injecting liquid polymers into the area where the esophagus joins with the stomach to bolster the sphincter.

Sounds a lot like laproscopic procedures used to "cure" GERD that I wrote about two years ago in which some 36 percent of patients developed new bowel symptoms after their surgeries.

Folks, you don't need surgery or drugs to "cure" your heartburn, particularly when safer, healthier and less expensive means are readily available to tame it.

New York Times May 31, 2005

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