“When a patient really requires chronic medication because of the valve being incompetent or too loose, the real solution, is to tighten the valve, in order to tighten the valve we have to put stitches in, and the traditional surgical approach has been to take the top of the stomach and wrap it around the bottom of the esophagus, and in that way to tighten it up,” explains Dr. Gregory Haber of Lenox Hill Hospital. But now, thanks to new technology, this can be achieved without major surgery.
Recently approved by the FDA, the Plicator Procedure is a minimally invasive treatment that’s tightening the valve. “What we do is we basically put an automated stitching device, we call it the Plicator, we put it down the throat and what that can do is we actually put the stitch into the valve from the inside of the esophagus,” says Dr. Haber. The Plicator is introduced through the mouth and into the stomach similar to a routine endoscopy.
The Plicator is used to grasp, fold and fixate tissue at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach, tightening the valve-like tissue that acts as a natural barrier to gastric reflux, correcting the underlying mechanical defect that causes GERD. “The best candidate for this type of procedure is someone that has classic GERD where they do have heartburn, where their symptoms are relieved by the use of antacids or medications, so that is an indication that the acid is a problem,” says Dr. Haber.
After years of being a slave to her antacid medications, Julie decided to get the Plicator Procedure. It has been a year since her treatment, and Julie says the pain of heartburn is now a distant memory…she’s resumed her wine tastings and is even planning a special European trip. “I can eat anything, I can do anything, I sleep at night, I don’t have heart burn. I am hoping later in the year to go to France and do a wine tour and do some wine tasting there,” says Julie.
The procedure is done on an outpatient basis. It takes around 20 minutes, performed under conscious sedation, enabling patients to return home the same day. Dr. Haber says that many patients can improve their gerd with some simple dietary changes…..avoid acidic foods, caffeine, spicy foods. And if you’re overweight, getting on a smart exercise and diet program will help your symptoms. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new fitness and dietary regimen.