What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common chronic digestive disorder. It causes stomach acid and sometimes stomach content to back up into the throat. This is called acid reflux, and over time it can damage the lining of the esophagus. Heartburn is also a common symptom of people with GERD.

Most people experience acid reflux and heartburn from time to time, especially after eating a spicy or heavy meal. GERD is diagnosed when these symptoms occur at least twice a week or are severe enough to interfere with your daily life.

Other common symptoms of GERD include:

  • sour taste in the mouth
  • chest pain
  • problems swallowing
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • hoarseness when speaking
  • feeling a lump in your throat

Acid reflux backs up into the throat due to problems with the muscles that join the esophagus to the stomach. These muscles are tight most of the time, but relax when you swallow. This creates an opening that allows food and liquids to enter the stomach. Then the muscles tighten and close again until the next time you swallow.

It’s when these muscles weaken or relax abnormally that acid reflux can occur.  

What Does a Stretta Procedure Do for People with GERD?

Common treatments for GERD include antacids and other medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery. Another option is the Stretta procedure. It’s a minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment that only takes about an hour to perform and allows most people to return to their everyday activities within a day.

Most people with GERD have damage to the muscle between the muscles that connect the throat to the stomach. The Stretta procedure helps strengthen these muscles. This results in better muscle control and fewer acid reflux episodes. 

Am I a Good Candidate for This Procedure?

Doctors may recommend the Stretta procedure to people whom medication or surgery hasn’t helped, or for those who aren’t good candidates for medication or surgery. Because the procedure involves placing a tube down the throat, it’s only recommended for people without any throat obstructions.

How Do You Prepare for This Procedure?

Your doctor will instruct you exactly how to prepare for your Stretta procedure. However, the preparation for most patients includes the following:

  • Do not eat after midnight the day before your procedure.
  • Be sure to only drink liquids – such as water, black coffee, tea, or apple juice ­– ON the morning of your procedure.
  • Take your normal medications during the morning of your procedure, EXCEPT for any diuretics or insulin or other diabetic medications.
  • Bring your daily medications with you to your procedure.
  • Stop any blood thinner medications three to five days before your procedure.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to your procedure.
  • You must arrange a ride home from the procedure because you will be sedated.

How Is This Procedure Done?

A Stretta procedure lasts about 60 minutes. You will be sedated with anesthesia. During the procedure, a specialist inserts a tube down your throat to the muscles that connect the throat to the stomach.

This tube sends mild radio waves to the tissue where the esophagus joins the stomach.. At the same time, it releases water to help prevent any heat injury to the inside of the body.

After the radio waves are applied, the tube is removed and you will be woken up from the anesthesia.

Does This Procedure Have Any Risks?

Complications during the Stretta procedure are rare. In one study of Stretta procedures, only 29 out of 15,000 people experienced some kind of complication. Some possible risks include:

  • gastroparesis, or food remaining in stomach too long
  • erosive esophagitis, or irritation of the throat from the Stretta tube
  • esophageal perforation, or injury to the throat from the Stretta tube
  • adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • gas and bloating

What Is the Outlook for This Procedure?

Most people are able to return to their normal activities the day after the procedure. However, you should rest as much as possible the day you are discharged from the hospital.

GERD patients who undergo the Stretta procedure can expect to see a reduction of their GERD symptoms for up to 10 years, according to researchers. Experts say it’s a safe procedure that’s repeatable if symptoms return.

Researchers have also found that a Stretta procedure can reduce a person’s need to take medication for GERD.