UCSD Medical Center Study May Halt Heartburn - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

UCSD Medical Center Study May Halt Heartburn

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More than 20 million Americans suffer from chronic heartburn, and for most people medication and antacids only provide temporary relief. At UCSD, a free clinical trial hopes to solve your sour stomach.

For years, Gina Levine has suffered from a burning, painful heartburn that forces her to burp after every meal.

"It doesn't happen right away, but I'm saying 'excuse me' an awful lot," she joked.

Gina suffers from what's called gastroesophageal reflux disease - or GERD. Just one day ago, Doctor Santiago Horgan performed a simple 20-minute procedure on Gina. He slipped a bracelet-looking contraption called a LINX around her esophagus.

"It truly amazed me that magnets can now be used not to play like when we were kids, but to treat patients," Gina said.

People who suffer from GERD often have a malfunctioning muscle in their lower esophagus that allows stomach gas and reflux to bubble back up into their chest and throat. Doctors hope the LINX can create a reliable and flexible valve that allows food to pass through to the stomach and stay there, putting a halt to heartburn.

Just hours after surgery, Gina is already drinking coffee and eating meals.

"It's kind of fun, something to talk about... it's like an internal jewelry because it looks like a little bracelet," she said.

Gina is just the second person in the world to take part in this free one-year clinical trial, and she says she's noticing a difference already.

"Actually I feel great. I'm surprised how well I'm doing and as I was eating my first meal afterwards I wasn't really thinking about, you know, my stomach at all. I don't feel the device and it feels good," she said.

Not only is the LINX procedure reversible, but rare earth magnets are so high end they won't wear out over time and lose their magnetism. In fact, they are expected to outlast the patients.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 75 and suffer from GERD, you may qualify for the free clinical trial. The program is looking for up to 40 new patients.

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