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Publications

Oh, what a relief! Tiny transmitter helps neutralize acid reflux

Bookmark and Share What started as simple heartburn, now feels as if a volcano has erupted in your belly, and the lava is creeping its way up your throat. Your stomach churns as an acid-like fluid fills your mouth. As you clench your stomach, you start to wonder: Is this really just heartburn? A more serious condition
New technology
Oh, what a relief!
Think you might have GERD?

A more serious condition
The truth is that heartburn and indigestion could be a symptom of a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). And now there's a painless test referred to as pH monitoring that can help you know for sure. This test tracks when acid is entering the esophagus as well as how much and how often it's entering. At Virtua Health, sophisticated technology in the form of a transmitter the size of a jellybean has changed the way patients undergo pH monitoring. "Before the development of this technique, patients would have a small tube called a catheter inserted through the nose, down to the stomach," describes John Kravitz, MD, Virtua Health board-certified gastroenterologist. "The catheter is in place for a day or two and can be very uncomfortable." New technology
Now, new technology allows Virtua physicians to perform pH monitoring using a tiny capsule without a catheter. "We attach a small capsule-shaped transmitter to the lining of the esophagus, just above the valve leading to the stomach," says Dr. Kravitz "Patients are sedated while the capsule is placed and never know the monitor is there." Patients carry a small wireless receiver that captures the data from the transmitter. The physician downloads the information to analyze the results. After 24 to 48 hours, the capsule is released and is passed naturally. Jeffrey Kutscher, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Virtua Memorial Hospital, explains that GERD affects the band of muscles that act as a valve between the esophagus, the tube leading to the stomach, and the stomach itself. "GERD prevents the valve from closing properly and allows stomach acid to enter the esophagus," describes Dr. Kutscher. "This acid can cause patients to experience a warm burning sensation, pain, nausea, coughing and tooth decay. With pH monitoring we can see exactly how well the valve is working." But before patients have pH monitoring, most will undergo an endoscopy to look for signs of GERD. "This is performed using a thin, flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope," says Dr. Kutscher. "The endoscope is inserted through the mouth and gently advanced down the throat. This allows us to examine the lining of the esophagus, the stomach and the top of the small intestine. It can even be used to biopsy suspicious cells. At times, the endoscopy doesn't reveal any damage to the esophagus. If this happens, it may be necessary to perform pH monitoring." Oh, what a relief!
"Many people with GERD don't realize how much it affects their quality of life until they've been cured through lifestyle changes, medications or surgery," says Dr. Kravitz. "GERD can cause changes in the esophagus lining that can lead to lesions and scar tissue that may narrow the esophagus making it difficult to swallow. These abnormal cells can even progress to cancer." He adds: "Our new technology allows us to make quicker, more accurate diagnoses. That means it's easier than ever before for patients to feel better, faster." Think you might have GERD?
Help is closer than you think. Virtua recently opened the area's first Heartburn Center at Virtua Memorial Hospital. The center includes the most advanced technology available for diagnosing and treating GERD. For diagnosis, the center's board-certified gastroenterologists use endoscopy, catheter-free pH monitoring and esophageal monometry. For those who need treatment, the Heartburn Center offers the complete range of options from medication to surgery. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 1-888-Virtua-3.