CELEBRATION – Like millions of Americans, Millagros Camacho had severe heartburn and acid reflux.
[WEB EXTRA: Foods to avoid]
The mother and grandmother had tried dieting and lifestyle changes but the condition persisted.
When she ended up hospitalized due to severe vomiting, she began asking her doctor for other options.
"She had tried everything, her lifestyle had changed and in fact she was seeking help from her doctor but couldn't quite turn the corner," said Dr. James Rosser, the surgeon at Celebration Health who ended up finding a solution.
Camacho became the first patient at the hospital to receive Linx, a surgical device that wraps around the esophagus to control acid reflux.
Linx is a ring-shaped device made up of small magnetic balls that form something almost like a bracelet.
"This thing can go around the door between your stomach and your food tube, and it can open and close just like your normal door does," said Rosser.
It works a lot like surgical procedures that reshape the stomach and tighten the esophageal passage but takes less time and is less invasive.
Rosser said the surgery is around 45 minutes as opposed to two to two and a half hours.
But before a patient can be evaluated for the procedure, they have to understand the symptoms of GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease.
"GERD recognition is more important today than at any other time in history. Esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the US and often the signs and symptoms are silent or are not taken seriously," said Rosser.
When the esophagus is constantly bathed with acid, a condition known as Barrett's esophagus can occur where the cell lining begins to change.
According to Rosser, if this is left untreated esophageal cancer can occur. Patients that unsuccessfully treat GERD and acid reflux with medication are at risk.
He said the best thing patients can do is take a heartburn self-evaluation test to see if they need to seek out other treatment options.
Using a scale of 0-5, Rosser said to evaluate the following symptoms by giving each it's own number: Hoarseness, cough, sensation of sticking in back of throat, heartburn, chest pain, acid in back of throat, excess mucous and post nasal drip.
"Of course 0 represents no symptoms at all and 5 means that symptoms very bad and impact negatively on lifestyle. Add all the scores up and a score greater than 10 indicates that you should seek medical attention for further work-up," he said.
As far as the Linx procedure goes, he said anyone who is experience at least a three or four on the severity scale for heartburn could be an ideal candidate.
Camacho said since she had the procedure her heartburn is gone and she is back to eating things she enjoys like pizza and spicy foods with no problem.
"I eat whatever I want, whenever and it's fine," she said.
You can read more about GERD and the Linx procedure at Celebration Health's website.