Northwestern Medicine experts are the first in Illinois to offer new GERD procedureCHICAGO, Feb. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Affecting one in every four Americans, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the most prevalent gastrointestinal disease in the United States. Very little has changed in the treatment of this condition over the last several decades, until now. Last year, a new device to help treat GERD, called the LINX Reflux Management System was approved after four years of evaluation and testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Northwestern Memorial Hospital is the first hospital in Illinois and one of only a few centers in the United States to offer this procedure. Heartburn occurs when the one-way valve at the bottom of the esophagus, called the lower sphincter, is too weak to prevent digestive acids from rising back up the esophagus. Patients with GERD are first encouraged to make dietary and lifestyle changes such as losing weight and avoiding certain types of foods that may trigger symptoms. For those who do not respond to dietary and lifestyle measures, medications are available, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors. "The proton pump inhibitors that are on the market right now are effective to relieve symptoms in most patients, if used correctly," said Nathaniel Soper, MD, chair of surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of minimally invasive surgery and the Loyal and Edith Davis Professor and chairman of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "These medications are necessary to help treat GERD, but often times they don't control all of the symptoms of GERD, and many patients experience a relapse of symptoms. Some people experience side effects or wish to discontinue the medicines for various reasons." When medications fail to control the GERD, surgery is an option for some patients. However, less than one percent of patients choose surgical treatment for the condition because of its potential risks and side effects.