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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acidreflux disease or gastric reflux disease, is a chronic condition characterizedby the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. People suffering from thisdigestive illness experience heartburn, difficulty when swallowing, chest pain,the feeling as if they have a lump in the throat, hoarseness or sore throat. Thecondition is most commonly treated with medication or surgically.

Incisionless surgery

It is estimated that around 20 percent of Americans sufferfrom symptoms associated with GERD, which is why the Center for the Future ofSurgery at UC San Diego Medical Center is testing this new surgical procedurethat would provide relief for around 20 million of people across the country. This clinical trial procedure has received approval from UCSDInstitutional Review Board and has been ongoing since November 2009.

The procedure takes 45 minutes and is carriedout with an endoscope (a long, flexible tube affixed with a small camera) used for the examination of the interiorof organs. In this procedure surgical instruments are fixed onto an endoscopeand then lowered down the patient’s upper stomach through their mouth. Thesurgeon then uses three small titanium staples to link a small segment of thestomach to the upper esophagus. It is important to note that this is performedthrough a sophisticated computerized device operated by a surgeon. In patientswith GERD, the muscle in the lower part of the esophagus weakens and are nolonger able to function as a valve, which prevents the stomach contents from travellingback up to the esophagus. This surgery enables the muscle to act as a protectivevalve again.

Advantages

The advantages of incisionless surgery are many. Traditional methods to correct GERD include open surgery, in which one longincision is made in the patient’s abdomen as well as the lessinvasive laparoscopy procedure. , in which the surgeon creates up to fiveincisions in order to place the instruments and operate on the patient. Thisnew procedure, still undergoing clinical trials, is minimally invasive, as itdoes not rely on incisions to restore esophagus to its normal function. Noincisions means no stitches, which further means that the patient needs less time torecover. Thus, the need for painkillers accompanying the recoveryprocess of the person undergoing a traditional procedure is eliminated. Surgeons testing this procedure state that the primary sideeffect of this incisionless surgery is a sore throat.

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