How Effective is the Stretta Procedure as a Gastroesophageal Reflux Treatment?

The Stretta procedure is a non-surgical Gastroesophageal Reflux treatment. It was approved by the FDA in 2000, and since then has been successfully used to help many GERD sufferers find relief from their acid reflux/heartburn symptoms.

What is involved in the Stretta procedure? Stretta procedure is performed using an endoscope (a small flexible tube with a lens and light that has different channels where additional medical instruments can be inserted), and a Stretta device (a very thin catheter that features a balloon at the end). After being given a local anesthetic, the patient swallows the endoscope that travels into the esophagus and remains just above the stomach.

The catheter is then guided through the endoscope, and the balloon is inflated. Four sharp probes are exposed on the outside of the balloon. The purpose of the probes are to discharge controlled levels of radio frequency energy into the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) muscle and the gastric carida (uppermost portion of the stomach). The radio frequency energy creates thermal lesions on the targeted areas. When these lesions heal, the LES muscles tighten reducing the possibility of stomach acid refluxing into the esophagus. Hence, the purpose of Stretta procedure is to strengthen the LES muscle to reduce the occurrence and severity of acid reflux.

What is the recovery time for Stretta procedure? The average recovery time is between 1 -2 days. Patients usually remain in a hospital recovery room between 2 and 3 hours, but are released the same day as the procedure. Most patients are able to return to their normal activities the next day.

Is Stretta procedure painful? Stretta procedure typically causes discomfort rather than actual pain. During the procedure the patient remains conscious and is administered a local anesthetic. Some patients experience abdominal cramping during the procedure, but this discomfort is often alleviated during the process, and passes when the procedure is finished.

After the procedure, patients generally feel an overall tenderness in their upper abdomen. This tenderness usually subsides within 3 – 5 days. Pain medication is not normally prescribed.

Does the procedure improve symptoms? Many studies reported in several medial journals, have found that acid reflux symptoms improve in as many as 80% patients. Most patients tend to experience a decrease in heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms within one month of Stretta procedure. Patients who experience this success were able to stop taking acid-blocking medications with little discomfort.

However, the most effective improvement of symptoms usually does not occur until about 6 months after the procedure is performed. It was also found that in many of these patients, symptoms were further improved or non-existent 12 months after the procedure.

Most patients discontinue their heartburn medication 1-2 months after surgery. However, individual results may vary. Caution, never stop taking prescription medication without first consulting your physician.

Are there complications? Complications of Stretta procedure are minimal as there is no cutting or incisions during procedure. The two most noted, but rare complications include:
- Transient odynophagia (painful swallowing lasting for a brief time)
- Chest pain

Studies have found complications only occur in about 10% of patients, and complications tend to be minor. However, this doesn’t mean serious complications cannot occur, as everyone responds differently to treatment.

Are there alternatives to Stretta procedure? Yes. It is recommended that acid reflux/GERD sufferers attempt natural treatments such as lifestyle changes and alternative therapies (I.E. acupressure, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc,) first, before opting for medical treatments such as medications, procedures and surgery.

If natural treatment does not work, the use of medications such as proton pump inhibitors is usually the next step to reduce stomach acid to alleviate and prevent acid reflux.

Aside from Stretta procedure, another endoscopic option that is been approved for GERD treatment is The Bard EndoCinch Suturing system. This is a procedure that places stitches in the LES to create small pleats to help strengthen the muscle. However, like Stretta, this procedure may not benefit those with severe GERD.

Finally, if you suffer from severe GERD symptoms (I.E. Severe acid reflux/heartburn, inflamed and damaged esophagus) you may want to consider Fundoplication surgery. This is a surgery that involves gathering and wrapping the upper curve of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus and sewing it in place. This allows the lower part of the esophagus to pass through the small tunnel that has been made from the stomach muscle. The surgery is designed to strengthen the LES and prevent the occurrence of acid reflux. Refer to the Treatment post about Fundoplication for more information.

Who is eligible for the procedure? Stretta procedure is generally considered safe for most GERD suffers regardless of their age. However, to be more specific, Stretta procedure is recommended for:
- People who don’t want to continue taking medications for GERD
- People who have drug intolerance
- People who have difficulty finding treatments that alleviate their symptoms
- People who would like to try a less invasive treatment method as an alternative to medications and instead of fundoplication surgery.

Who is not eligible for the procedure? Stretta procedure is not recommended to those who suffer from:
- Severe GERD
- Large hiatal hernias (hernias larger than 2 cm or 0.78 in) – a condition where the stomach protrudes up into the diaphragm through a small hole known as the hiatus.
- Esophagus abnormalities such as a narrowed esophagus and adult-ringed esophagus that causes limited or difficulty swallowing.

What is the cost of Stretta procedure? Stretta procedure ranges between $2,000 and $3,000.

Does insurance pay for the surgery? Most insurance companies (I.E Medicare) cover Gastroesophageal Reflux treatments such as Stretta procedure. However, it is important that you first check with your insurance company to see if you are covered, and also to obtain authorization prior to the procedure. Also, don’t forget that even though your insurance may cover the treatment, there may be a coverage limit.

Acid Reflux Treatment

If you are suffering from acid reflux, GERD or heartburn most doctors will recommend some form of prescription medication to combat the symptoms you are experiencing. The problem with this approach is apart from being expensive, most medications prescribed for acid reflux, heartburn and GERD are not designed for long term use and tend to mask the problem rather than addressing it.

For reliable acid reflux, heartburn and GERD treatment information that focuses on preventing and controlling symptoms naturally, read Stop Acid Reflux Now; an easy to follow, comprehensively researched downloadable book by Kathryn Whittaker.

Stop Acid Reflux Now shows you how to easily take control of your acid reflux, heartburn and GERD symptoms through the use of effective natural methods that avoid the need for expensive medications. Read how some really simple lifestyle changes can have a huge positive effect on your health, enhancing the quality of your life.