In developed countries, diets which are high in fats and alcohol are being blamed for rising numbers of people with acid reflux problems, otherwise known as heartburn. Somewhere between 10-20% of the population suffers regularly from acid reflux, people between 60 and 70-years-old being particularly affected and it’s a serious problem as heartburn can lead to ulcers and cancer. But now a new device is being trialled. It’s a bracelet of magnetic titanium beads which is fitted around the lower oesophagus:
Dr John Lipham a surgeon at the Hoag-USC Surgical Center for Digestive Diseases in the US, explained: “It’s a one-way valve that opens when you swallow and then closes and prevents anything from coming back up. So the reason you get reflux is again because of that leaky valve”.
The bracelet reinforces the muscle but is flexible enough to let food pass when someone swallows. Difficulty swallowing is a common side effect but usually eases with time.
Dr John Lipham said: “The force of attraction of these magnetic beads coming together helps keep the weak lower oesophageal sphincter or valve closed at the end of oesophagus.”
In a study published in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ 100 patients with chronic acid reflux trialled the bracelet successfully.
Implanting the bracelet is fast and easy, using keyhole surgery so that patients can go home the same day and the procedure has now been approved by the NHS in the UK.