GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Roughly 18 million people in the U.S. suffer from symptoms of reflux and heartburn, an uncomfortable condition that allows stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. For those with severe cases, there's now a new, minimally invasive procedure available on the coast.
Doctors say this procedure is a big advance for treating gastro-esophageal disease, known as GERD. And Garden Park Medical Center in Gulfport is one of only 43 centers around the country offering it; and one of only two centers in Mississippi.
People with mild or infrequent GERD can usually take medication to keep it under control, but for those with more severe cases, this new procedure offers a more permanent solution. Carolyn Jewkes from Gulfport has suffered from GERD for a number of years.
"I've had it about 15 years and the medicine didn't stop it, so I was tired of it."
She said her symptoms were out of control.
"Heartburn, indigestion, couldn't lie down and sleep."
She was happy to learn about the new procedure being offered by Laparoscopic surgeon, Dr. Donald Balder, at Garden Park. Dr. Balder says the new "LINX Reflux Management System" is designed to eliminate the symptoms of GERD.
"Basically people belch acid, because the lower esophageal muscles aren't working properly."
The procedure attacks the cause of GERD by using an expandable magnetic titanium ring.
"We go in and put this magnetic ring around the esophageal sphincter muscle that allows the esophagus to open when swallowing, but closes as soon as the food goes through."
Dr. Balder says the procedure involves three tiny incisions and takes less than an hour. Jewkes felt better right away.
"I don't have heartburn, I don't have to take medication, and I can lie down flat," without the discomfort of severe acid reflux.