Magnetic Beads May Ease Reflux for Some

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, who do not find relief with diet or medication, often seek alternative therapies. One new therapy showing promise is a type of surgery called magnetic sphincter augmentation (MSA). This surgery involves the insertion of a small flexible band of magnetic beads around the lower esophageal sphincter to help keep food from coming back into the esophagus.


    The device is designed so that swallowing forces a temporarily break in the magnetic bond between the beads allowing food to pass through normally. Then the magnetic attraction of the beads is designed to close the lower esophageal sphincter immediately after swallowing to prevent food from coming back up.

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    Over 1000 patients worldwide have been implanted with the MSA device. At this point, the surgery is deemed safe (Lipham et al., 2014). Patients who have had this surgery have also seen an improvement in their health and have reduced their daily dependence on medication according to a 2013 report in the New England Journal of Medicine.


    This discovery is good news for the reflux community and great news for individuals who have not had success with other reflux treatments.


    The MSA device has been approved by the FDA. However, there are certain precautions to keep in mind. As with almost all complicated conditions, all treatment options should be explored, starting with the least invasive first. Surgery is still surgery and even the best surgeons will tell you to avoid it when possible. And finally, each bead on the magnetic device contains a neodymium iron boron magnetic core coated with titanium. No one knows the long-term impact of internal exposure to these materials, especially for patients who may have a suspected allergy to certain metals.


    You should talk to your doctor if you think magnetic sphincter augmentation may be helpful to you. 

Published On: June 12, 2014