A number of people suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), aka acid reflux from the stomach that rises into the esophagus and creates heartburn. We all see lots of ads on television for purple pills and other medications that are designed to help with this problem. Those work for some people, but for others the problem is not alleviated through medication.
Some of our doctors have been using an alternative technique, called endoluminal therapy. The technique is to reach down into the esophagus with a device that pulls up some of the tissue at the boundary of the stomach and the esophagus and clips those tissues together to strengthen the sphincter. The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes.
The results have been very good. A large percentage of patients have been able to get off medication or reduce their dosages considerably, and the holding power of the therapy also looks positive, with consistent results many months after the procedure.
I think this is an interesting example of how clinicians in academic medical centers often look beyond current therapies and conduct research and try out new ideas that hold promise for patients.
In making this post, I also want to disclose that one or more of the BIDMC doctors have been involved in the development of some of the technology that is used for this procedure and hold equity positions in one or another company than produces them. That, too, is a practice in academic medical centers that is authorized under various federal regulations as a way of moving conceptual ideas into the marketplace. Doctors in the Harvard system have a strict conflict of interest policy to which they must adhere when engaged in these kinds of activities.